#CultureUnderThreat Smart M.App 2017-10-26T04:18:55+00:00

Mapping threats to cultural heritage in the Middle East and North Africa makes it clear that much of our past, the ‘Cradle of Civilization’, is in imminent danger of destruction. With priceless artifacts and millennia of history lost and imperiled, teams of heritage experts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been working tirelessly to track the scope of the plunder thus far. This map seeks to aid efforts to protect heritage by providing a foundation for identifying #CultureUnderThreat in the broader context of terrorist activity in the region. It shows, sadly, the clear march of destruction by Daesh and its sympathizers and illustrates where deliberate attacks on heritage are occurring and remain threatened. This phenomenon of heritage threatened by terror groups is not limited to the activities of Daesh. Cultural sites across the MENA region have been targeted by a variety of terror groups and violent extremist organizations across the Arab world. Although Daesh is capturing the headlines, they are just one of the many groups targeting heritage in the region.

Accompanying text and data review who the perpetrators are and how these activities are being carried out.


  • This map is interactive and user friendly, it is designed to be explored and clicked throughout and can be accessed using all browsers, computers, tablets and smart phones.
  • To zoom, click the “+” or “-” buttons on the map – zooming will spread the numbered icons as the map gets more detailed.
  • Zooming in to full depth will reveal the latest available Digital Globe satellite imagery in any given area.
  • To see more information about each site marked, click on the icon of your choice to see the pop-up of information.
  • To see charts with data by type – click on the 3 bar icon to the right and select “Charts”, this will give options to view a pie chart with groups responsible for destruction as well as the option to view timeline.
    • For the timeline, select a span of time to view incidents by date of occurrence.
    • For the suspected group pie chart, click on any group in the chart to view incidents by selected group responsible.
  • Metrics for both the suspected group chart and the timeline can be viewed in any combination to see the metrics available.
  • Click around and explore!

Overview of Map Layers

LAYER: ‘Terror Controlled’

Terror Controlled LayerWhat it Displays: A map of areas that are under the direct control of terrorist groups or threatened by areas they have occupied between January and October 2015. Information from no earlier than 2015 was included due to the continually shifting nature of the MENA conflicts. The terrorist groups included in this map were based on terror groups as defined by the National Counterterrorism Center.

Sources of Information: Institute for Study of War (ISW), the Carter Center Syrian Conflict Mapping Project, National Counterterrorism Center and international media reports on terror-controlled territories.

LAYER: ‘Incidents’

Incident LayerWhat it Displays: A map of cultural heritage sites that have been deliberately targeted for destruction, demolition, or attack by violent extremist non-state actors and organizations. This layer includes sites that have been damaged, destroyed or attacked from January 2011 to January 2016. This does not include sites that have been destroyed as a result of collateral damage in conflict.

Sources of Information: This map was developed in collaboration with Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) using reports from the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives as well as the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA). Additionally, reports were sourced from media and social media dating back to January 2011.

LAYER: ‘Heritage Sites’Heritage Sites Layer

What it Displays: A complete mapping of all of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites and Tentatively listed sites in the Arab League states.

Source of Information: UNESCO World Heritage Center.

LAYER: Museums Locations

Museum Locations LayerWhat it Displays: A mapping of local and national museums dedicated specifically to archaeology, history and/or religion within each nation of focus.

Sources of Information: The 21st Edition of the Museums of the World (2014) as well as the ministries of tourism and/or antiquities for each of the nations addressed.

LAYER: ‘Hot Spots’

Hot spots layerWhat it Displays: A heat map of areas with the highest concentrations of incidents of destruction. This layer includes data from heritage sites that have been damaged, destroyed or attacked from January 2011 to January 2016.

Sources of Information: Hot spot data is derived from the ‘Incidents’ layer and calculated to display the areas of highest concentrations of deliberate heritage destruction.

About the Smart M.App

To provide a graphical representation of cultural crimes committed by Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL ) and other extremist organizations in the Middle East and North African region, the Antiquities Coalition partnered with Hexagon to create the Culture Under Threat Map. The interactive map program base includes current high-resolution satellite imagery maps and displays the destruction of heritage sites in the Middle East and North Africa. The Smart M.App’s satellite imagery base paired with the metrics for viewing multiple data combinations provides unique insights into cultural cleansing that were not previously available through standard GIS maps.

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.

Data Breakdown

About the Data

For the purposes of this study, the nations of focus include the member states of the Arab League. In order to illustrate the broader scope of cultural heritage under threat, a complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Listed and Tentative sites as well as museums in the Arab League nations has been mapped to display the juxtaposition of major world heritage sites against the reach of terror groups in the MENA region. These sites cover more than 10,000 years of history, dozens of cultures and religions that represent the birth of civilization and the foundation of society, as we know it today. UNESCO World Heritage sites are only a small fraction of the cultural heritage sites that exist across the MENA region, the University of Oxford estimates there are between 3-5 million archaeological sites in total across the region. The inclusion of the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage and Tentative Lists gives a glimpse of what is at risk. Locations of UNESCO sites are available to the public whereas the majority of the millions of sites across the region are not publicly known, it is for this reason that we have elected to include only sites whose information has been made publicly available so as not to create a map leading to yet unknown sites and putting heritage further under threat.

The Antiquities Coalition has collected data on the areas under control of terror groups in the MENA region. The AC has composed the Culture Under Threat Smart M.App in collaboration with Hexagon Geospatial using the Hexagon Smart M.App Incident Analyzer mapping system which allows for the creation of a series of responsive and interactive layers to demonstrate the current holdings of terror groups and their potential reach in heritage-rich areas. Using a heat map to illustrate the concentrated areas and geographic extent of heritage sites deliberately destroyed, we are able to glean insight into what could be a potential next target of Daesh, Al Nusra and other groups for plunder or cultural cleansing.  A heat map illustrates concentrations of data through a spectrum of colors; in this case red is used to display the areas of highest concentration while the blue,

shows areas of waning concentration. The map of areas under control of terror groups includes information of the primary and secondary funding sources of the terror group in question. Understanding the primary funding sources of the terror group in control of a geographic areas can also help experts prioritize what areas are at greatest immediate risk of plunder for profit.

In addition to displaying areas under terror control alongside UNESCO sites and museums in Arab League states the Antiquities Coalition, in collaboration with Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA), has developed a layer of cultural heritage sites that have been deliberately destroyed or targeted by violent extremist organizations. This layer, represented by red “target” icons, displays heritage sites that have been deliberately targeted for destruction since the regional destabilization that occurred following the January 2011 Arab Spring. The sites displayed here have been deliberately targeted and attacked by violent extremists or extremist organizations that are non-state actors and do not serve as examples of collateral damage from conflict or war.

Terrorist groups included in this map are only those defined as terrorist groups by the National Counterterrorism Center. The information on primary and secondary funding sources for terror groups was gathered from analysis and comparison of multiple reports from for each funding source included; reports were sources from the US Treasury, US State Department officials, the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institution, RAND, Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, Australian National Security, CSIS, the Hague, Forbes and numerous media reports. A complete breakdown can be found below.

Terror Group Funding Sources Cited

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP):


Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM):


Ansar Al Sharia:


Daesh (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or IS):

**Unlike other groups – Daesh relies on internal sources of revenue – but distributes revenue to other groups (Congressional Research Service)


Jabhat Al Nustra:

How to Cite

We have released the Culture Under Threat Smart M.App to be accessed as a freely available public resource for all to use. However, we do ask if you use our platform in your analysis, please credit our work by citing as follows: Antiquities Coalition. 2016. “Culture Under Threat Smart M.App,” The Antiquities Coalition.

The Antiquities Coalition is seeking to make this map a comprehensive tool that can be used by government organizations and security experts in the fight to protect heritage and combat looting for terrorist financing. We are always happy to collaborate on projects and welcome any comments or suggestions. Any experts in heritage, counter terrorism, security or any other relevant areas of study with information they would like to submit for inclusion in the map and the developing report, please reach out to us. Inquiries regarding the map should contact Katie A. Paul at KPaul@theantiquitiescoalition.org.

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