The ancient city of Palmyra, housing a 3,600-foot-long colonnade, marketplace, amphitheater, castle, and numerous tombs, is an archaeological treasure. "It makes Rome blush," says archaeologist Stephennie Mulder. "When you approach the site, it rises out of the desert like some sort of a mirage out of a fairy tale." But the city's wonders are at risk of destruction at the hands of ISIS. Not only would the city's ruin be a blow to Syria's national identity, it would mean the loss of one of the oldest inhabited places on the planet, writes Carolina A. Miranda at the Los Angeles Times. Around for at least 3,800 years, the city rose to prominence about 2,000 years ago and, incredibly, many of its ruins remain intact.
"You can essentially walk into a 2,000-year-old city," Mulder says. "That's what makes it so amazing." Though it appears to have been built in a Greco-Roman style, a closer look reveals elements of Persian, Semitic, Indian, and Chinese styles, too. "Syria has always been a multicultural, multifaith, multiethnic place," Mulder notes. Palmyra's many inscriptions show "different people coming together to build." Now, though Muslims have been living among such sites for centuries, ISIS' interpretation of Islam, which sees artifacts as false idols, threatens to tear it all down. "It's a heritage terror or a form of genocide, erasing the past in order to create a purified ideal," Mulder says. Writes Miranda, "Losing Palmyra will mean losing a piece of Syrian identity at a time when that identity is relentlessly fractured." Click for her full piece. (Read more ruins stories.)