Just a few short weeks after Galina Krasskova’s impassioned call for prayer on behalf of the ancient city of Palmyra and Tess Dawson’s article at Polytheist entitled “The Horror of Palmyra”, noted Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad has been beheaded and his body tied to a Roman-era column at the site.
This killing was the work of Daesh, a brutal militant group which has previously destroyed several other historical sites of ancient worship as well as an ancient lion statue that once guarded Palmyra. Sources say Daesh targeted the retired archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad, when he refused to give up the location of Palmyra’s treasures, many of which al-Asaad had helped to hide from the terrorists.
Khaled al-Asaad was 81 at the time of his murder. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, said of Al-Asaad that he was “one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th century.” A self-taught archaeologist, al-Asaad made uncovering and cataloguing the Unesco World Heritage site of Palmyra his life’s work, spending over four decades there and eventually retiring so that his son, Walid, could carry on in his place.
As reported to the BBC, Amr al-Azm, an archaeologist and former Syrian antiquities official who knew al-Asaad, said of the murdered man that he was an “icon of Palmyrene archaeology”.
“If you needed to do anything in Palmyra with regards to the archaeology or the monuments, you had to go through Khaled al-Asaad. He was essentially ‘Mr. Palmyra’,” al-Azm said.
If ever Pagans were to count a man amongst the Honored Dead, we must surely count Khaled al-Asaad as one of them. Martyred while trying to preserve the sanctity and retain the few relics left to places such as the temple of Ba’al and al-Lat (an alternative name of Ereshkigal), this is a man truly deserving of honor and praise.