Antiquities museum reopens in Syria

An antiquities museum in Syria's Idlib Province said to house one of the world's oldest dictionaries reopened recently after five years.

Oil lamps are displayed at the Idlib Museum in the northern Syrian city of Idlib. 

An antiquities museum in Syria’s Idlib Province said to house one of the world’s oldest dictionaries reopened recently after five years.

Dozens of visitors trickled into the museum in Idlib city to see what an official said represented just a fraction of the building’s collection.

Ayman al-Nabu, head of antiquities for the city, said the museum had been damaged by air strikes and looting during Syria’s nearly seven-year conflict. After it was closed in 2013, “we carried out maintenance and rehabilitated the museum to give it new life,” he said.


A mosaic stands at the Idlib Museum.

Organizers are planning “visits for a whole generation of students who have been unable to visit archeological sites due to the war,” he added.

The museum is said to house a collection of clay tablets dating back to 2400-2300 BC, which bear witness to the invention of the first alphabet. They were discovered in Idlib Province’s site of Ebla, which was the seat of one of ancient Syria’s earliest kingdoms.

Among the visitors, a man admired clay lamps displayed in a glass cabinet, while a women took a picture with her phone of a collection including a large amphora. A dark grey statuette stood beheaded on a pedestal in a corner.

Archeologist Fayez Qawsara said he remembers the museum’s opening in 1989. “I attended the founding of Idlib museum in my youth ... and today, after all these dark happenings, the museum is reopening with what remains in it.” Important objects in the collection included “the Ebla tablets and basalt statues showing ancient religious rites,” he said.

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