Story highlights

Badly damaged artifacts were smuggled out of Syrian city of Palmyra for safekeeping

Antiquities expert who saved them from ISIS was killed by the militant group

Italian restorers have worked to repair the statues using a 3D printer

CNN —  

Two sculptures from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, disfigured by ISIS fighters armed with hammers, have been painstakingly repaired by Italian restoration experts.

The funerary busts of a man and a woman were among a trove of artifacts spirited out of Palmyra by Khalid al-As’ad, the site’s head of antiquities, in an attempt to save them from complete destruction as ISIS terrorists occupied the region in 2015.

Al-As’ad’s refusal to reveal where he had hidden the priceless carvings cost the 82-year-old university professor his life: he was publicly beheaded by militants in the city’s main square in August 2015.

Damaged by ISIS militants in Palmyra, the sculptures were taken to Italy to be repaired.
Courtesy Italian Cultural Ministry
Damaged by ISIS militants in Palmyra, the sculptures were taken to Italy to be repaired.

Italy’s former minister of culture, Francesco Rutelli, organized the transportation of the two statues from Damascus, via Beirut, to Rome, where experts set to work restoring them.

The busts, which date back to the second and third century, had been on display between October to December with replicas of other damaged artifacts from Syria and Iraq in a UNESCO-sponsored exhibition at Rome’s Coliseum.

ISIS destroys Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph

3-D printed repair work

“Italy wanted to maintain the request of the martyr of Palmyra, Khaled al-As’ad, who refused to collaborate with terrorists,” Rutelli said.

Now head of the cultural heritage organization Meeting of Civilizations Association, Rutelli said ISIS had “ravaged [Palmyra’s] museums with the purpose to destroy.”