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Syrians receiving training in Japan to restore damaged cultural heritage sites

Syrian antiquities officials receive training on 3D measurements at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, on May 24, 2018. (Mainichi)

KASHIHARA, Nara -- Four Syrian officials in charge of cultural heritage are receiving training in a variety of techniques including antiquities preservation at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara in Nara Prefecture and other locations.

The training is part of a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project for capacity building, and the trainees will go through various courses until early August on basic to state-of-the-art techniques under the guidance of the institute's former deputy head and technical adviser Kiyohide Saito, 64, and other experts.

The four officials belong to the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria. They started their curriculum at the institute on May 16, and learned how to make a three-dimensional measurement of eave-end roof tiles used in traditional Japanese houses.

According to Saito, courses are designed based on requests from the Syrian side. The trainees will go to Chubu University in Aichi Prefecture in June to learn how to utilize drones in photographing and mapping ancient ruins.

The ancient city of Palmyra, Syria's World Heritage site, sustained severe damage caused by the radical Islamic State (IS) group. The city in central Syria once thrived through Silk Road trading. Hiba Ali, 29, one of the Syrian officials, said, "I was shocked (to see the damaged ruins) but now I feel strongly about doing something myself. The training we have here is important as it will help us put together structures that were blown into pieces."

Researchers from the Kashihara institute carried out excavations and restoration work at Palmyra from 1990 through 2010. Saito, who took part in the research in Syria, pointed out that Syria's cultural heritage is in crisis, adding, "We would like to support them to restore the antiquities."

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Fujiwara, Kashihara Resident Bureau)

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