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Antiquities Coalition Releases “Mapping Culture Under Threat” Resource

April 13, 2016

Interactive Satellite Image Map Shows Scale of ISIS Destruction & Threats To Cultural  Heritage Sites in Middle East & North Africa

Antiquities Coalition closely monitors ISIS’ campaign of cultural cleansing from space.

To provide a graphical representation of cultural crimes committed by ISIS and other extremist organizations in the region, the Antiquities Coalition partnered with Hexagon to create the Culture Under Threat Map. The interactive map based on current high-resolution satellite imagery tracks and displays the destruction of heritage sites in the Middle East and North Africa.

This dynamic information service, known as a Hexagon Smart M.App, is being released in conjunction with the #CultureUnderThreat Task Force, itself the first comprehensive set of recommendations by respected NGOs to the U.S. government to combat cultural racketeering and cultural cleansing. The report outlines specific actions that can be taken by the Obama Administration, Congress, the art market, and the international community to reduce cultural destruction and looting, end impunity for illegal trade in heritage property, and sever this key funding source for extremists like ISIS.

The Culture Under Threat Smart M.App temporally illustrates losses to date with easy to use time and date slide bars showing when incidents took place. Unlike previous maps that show a static time set, the Culture Under Threat Smart M.App timeline can be used to understand how destruction has evolved across the broader MENA region at a given time. The ability to view this timeline with any combination of data sets allows for a unique examination of patterns. This allows experts to not only quantify data across a wide region, but provides an opportunity to understand the types of patterns that are occurring which can better inform them in the development of solutions to the critical threats caused by cultural cleansing.

Sites and data regarding the destruction or damage to a site can be crowd sourced and when pictures are taken at damaged historical sites, the images can be uploaded to the Smart M.App so the map becomes an active information management exchange and information visualization tool.

“Our hope is that this Smart M.App will help raise awareness about the extent of the destruction that has been wrought by ISIS on our shared heritage,” Lehr said, “These attacks against culture are first and foremost attacks against the people of Iraq, Syria, and the entire region. Their crimes of war also damage the future foundations of peace, stability, and economic growth for Iraq and Syria, which rely on their rich cultural heritage for a shared sense of national identity and for job creation and investment,” Lehr continued.

“We built the Hexagon Smart M.App as a dynamic tool to help solve real-world problems, and today we’ve seen the power of this platform realized in partnership with the Antiquities Coalition,” said Hexagon Geospatial President, Mladen Stojic. “We developed a Smart M.App that allows their experts to analyze multiple real-time data streams that have helped them identify trends in heritage site destruction and looting across the Middle East. This big data analysis has already provided insight to drive new recommendations and policies to protect ancient heritage sites across the globe.”

 About The Antiquities Coalition Map:

  • The Antiquities Coalition’s interactive map only includes museums and sites designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) whose information is publicly available so as not to reveal to ISIS the details of other critical but lesser known locations of cultural, historical, and religious history.
  • The destruction in the countries examined has revealed at least 230 sites that have been deliberately targeted or destroyed by ISIS and other violent extremist organizations. Destroyed heritage includes significant monuments from the ancient, Greco-Roman, Islamic, and modern periods alike.
  • The Culture Under Threat Map currently shows nearly 700 heritage sites throughout the 22 states of the Arab League — 209 UNESCO World Heritage and Tentative List Sites (34 of which are in Iraq and Syria), 230 damaged or destroyed sites, and 277 museums.
  • The Hexagon Smart M.App is a dynamic, cloud-based platform that uses high resolution imagery and maps paired with multiple fluid streams of real-time information. This information can be dissected, analyzed and visualized to deliver a picture of what is happening in the moment over a specific location. More importantly, Smart M.App’s help develop analysis that can be used to forecast future possibilities and outcomes based on current and past trends.