Dura-Europos and the Importance of Digital Accessibility

Looting and Civil War

Since 2011, civil war has destroyed countless Syrian lives. The dire economic and political circumstances have in turn made sites like Dura-Europos attractive to looters seeking material for the art market. The comparison tool above makes clear the damage to the site within just the first three years of the conflict. What appear as crater-like features all over the city and just outside its walls are pits left in the wake of illicit digging.

Such destruction means that a unique source of information about the ancient past is regrettably compromised for future research. Stratigraphic layers that archaeologists rely on have been disturbed by pits, and countless artifacts have been removed from their contexts without documentation. Even in the absence of conflict, recovering new information from the site itself will be difficult. The accessibility of consistently processed data from controlled scientific excavations prior to 2011 is therefore of paramount importance.

Multi-Lingual Capacity

Dura-Europos is a cultural heritage site with significance both in the Middle East and all over the world. But linguistic barriers have long limited access to information on Dura. Technology may finally be able to help here. YDEA has chosen the Wikidata platform for the project’s backend in part because of its built-in¬†multi-lingual capacity. Editors and users can search and contribute in any of Wikidata’s hundreds of supported languages, including Arabic.