We have been rightfully shocked by the destruction of ancient and historic monuments by ISIS. News reports from the Middle East have reported the terrorist group destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts some 3,000 years old. The group imperils all the monuments and sites affiliated with non-ISIS thought and belief, which means just about everything that’s important or very old.
In ISIS’ aim to obliterate all religious minorities and secular people, they have gone on a rampage of destruction with no regard for culture and heritage. Indeed, they have pillaged archaeological sites and have profited by sales of antiquities on the black market.
Of most concern are the mayhem and murder of people in the path of ISIS in their nefarious, misguided goal of establishing some sort of “Caliphate”. The destruction of world heritage sites acts is their idea of obliterating anything not in line with their narrow version of history. Heirlooms of humankind are being sacrificed in the name of ideology.
It’s not that old sites and monuments are more important than the suffering and loss of life. The physical destruction points to a disregard of civilization and our collective histories. Our monuments and sites, be they ancient or contemporary, are the legacy of human struggle and creativity.
The negative activities of ISIS have brought into sharp focus the diversity and vulnerability of the world’s architectural monuments and heritage sites. The public is now more aware of how difficult it is to protect and conserve them.
In 1983, UNESCO established each April 18th as the International Day for Monuments and Sites. Under the auspices of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) each year’s commemoration features awareness of a different cultural theme. This year ICOMOS has chosen “The Heritage of Sport”. This theme was chosen because of the August Olympic Games to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this year.
Past Olympics and other sports related activities have helped develop architecture that reflects the diversity of our interests and aspirations. We might think about the original sites of the games in ancient Greece, or a contemporary venue like “Wrigley Field” in Chicago.
These places represent a major part of the art and architecture of human society. Some of the sites include prehistoric cave paintings that depict swimming and wrestling. Other ancient places were venues for various ball games. So the long history of sport is marked by many important world heritage monuments and sites.
The International Day for Monuments and Sites is best observed by visiting a local historical monument or site. If one is not nearby, the Web offers a wealth of photography and stories about these places. We can dedicate today to the protection and preservation of these priceless places.