Ancient City of Bosra

Ancient City Of Bosra, Syrian Arab Republic

Zoomed in portion from map on Homepage

Zoomed in portion from map on Homepage


Background of the Site:

Stated in UNESCO 2016, Bosra was once the capital of an Arabian Roman province. It was an important stop on the way to Mecca. Remaining at the site is an elaborate Roman Theatre which still holds concerts today in the summer. It also still has Christian ruins and many wonderful mosques. It holds one of the oldest mosques in Syria, Mosque of Al-Omari. The date of inscription for the Ancient City of Bosra was in 1980 where it was listed in the World Heritage Site. It also has artifacts and features from the Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad empires which signifies how much history can be shown from the site. In 2013 it was decided that the Ancient City of Bosra should be on the List of World Heritage in Danger on the UNESCO webpage . The endangerment could be because as of March 2011 there has been lots of turmoil and many deaths due to the conflict in Syria. Due to this increase conflict and risk of export of cultural objects, these issues were presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

Criteria to be on the World Heritage List:

Any site that goes on the World Heritage List has to follow at least one out of the ten criteria. The Ancient City of Bosra follows three of the criteria; i, iii, vi.

(i)”to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”: The Roman Theatre and cathedral of Bosra both show incredible archaeological advancements and achievements for their time as well as the Mosque of Al- Omari. 

(iii) “to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared”: The Ancient City of Bosra once inhabited 80,000 people and now these ruins are left for us to see like those of Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad empires.

(vi) “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”: In Islam the idea of Mohammed becoming the prophet was said to have happened after his first visit at Bosra, Mohammed visited Bosra twice. 

The justification for these acts in more detail are found on the description page of The Ancient City of Bosra on the UNESCO site.

This video talks about what Bosra is like as of 2013. People still are inhabited in the ancient city as well as concerts still occur at the Roman Theatre in the summer Video Source:

Endangering Factors:

The war in Syria started in March 2011, it has destroyed various land and archaeological sites. Corporations like World  Monument’s Fund has been created to help conserve what is left for sites. The conflict has led to instability within the Ancient City of Bosra.In December 2015 combats took over the City of Bosra.

Bosra Nabathean Gate Damaged – Image Source:


In the World Monument’s Fund website it said, “A courtyard adjacent to a Roman theater and parts of the Ayyubid Citadel were damaged during the conflict, and the vulnerability of other areas in the ancient city was increased.”


Things are not just happening in Bosra, but all across Syria. ISIS is even damaging antiquities that are erasing the past. ISIS is making videos of smashing and destroying many ancient antiquities in many ancient cities throughout Syria. Some of there more drastic work has been done in Palmyra. 

“These acts of destruction supposedly in the name of religion are dishonest and hypocritical: the same ISIS also is busy looting archaeological sites to support its thriving illegal trade in antiquities, causing further incalculable harm” -CNN Article

Here are some before and after pictures of destruction that ISIS has caused:

Monument before destruction of ISIS

The Arch of Triumph in Palmyra in 2006 before destruction of ISIS Image Source:





Monument after destruction of ISIS Monument before destruction of ISIS

 The Arch of Triumph in Palmyra in March 27, 2015 after destruction of ISIS Image Source:  a-isis-palmyra-shrines/




Conflict in Bosra with ISIS Continued:

Since the conflict in Syria has started, Bosra has been a known place for bomb shelling as well as frequent snipers camping out at the Roman Theatre and other special monuments ready to aim fire at their attackers. 


The yellow arrows show shelling that occurred in Bosra. The far right arrow shows a hole put in the Al- Omari Mosque from bombing.

Picture taken April 2014. The yellow arrows show shelling that occurred in Bosra. The far right arrow shows a hole put in the Al- Omari Mosque from bombing. Image Source:


In April 2015, UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova has urged the fighting to stay away from Bosra to protect the land, her wishes were respected until more damage came in December 2016. 

Insight Into Global Issues


Issues regarding the Ancient City of Bosra according to UNESCO.

Issues regarding the Ancient City of Bosra according to UNESCO. Image Source:

However as stated in the SAA, “In the end, archaeology depends on broad public understanding and support. For this reason, many of the tasks facing archaeologists today hinge on public relations—the communication of the relevance of archaeology to our lives.” 

Getting the word out about these sites are vital, and many archaeologists use blogs or websites to convey their insight on problems going on.

As mentioned above in Endangerment Factors, World Monuments Fund is an non profit organization that helps to preserve sites that are endangered. They have many different projects that build up funds to preserve or restore certain areas. They work with partners around the world to maintain stability of sites.

Looting is a Continuing Problem:

There are many acts that have been passed to help stop some of the looting problems not just happening in Syria, but all around the globe. The war happening in Syria has been causing ISIS to not only smash antiquities, but also have people sell these antiquities illegally.

There is an open letter on UN to ban trade in Syrian Artifacts that says, “Our shared world heritage in Syria is being looted and turned into weapons of war. Ancient sites dating back to the very earliest moments of human civilisation are being crudely dug up and sold to foreign collectors.”

ISIS is now taking over many of the heritage sites. The Ancient City of Bosra is being used for bombing and camp outs for aiming fire on enemies. Other countries are lucky if they have one UN world heritage site, but Syria has six that need to be protected more than ever. Trade was banned in Iraq in 2003 by the UN Security Council, now they want Syria to ban trade of artifacts. Many archaeologists risk their lives to go to these sites to protect the heritage and this ban can help with the solidarity, decrease the value of the artifacts, and hopefully decrease looting practices. Preserving the heritage from the past can help reunite Syria after the war and put forth the future of peace. 

 Information presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016 however, is showing that conflict is hard to stop the destruction of the Ancient City of Bosra: 

“It is noted with regret that the temporary agreement between the parties to the conflict to freeze combats within the property was broken in December 2015 and that the site has been further bombarded. The local efforts to protect and conserve the property should be acknowledged. In the framework of the “Emergency Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage” project implemented by UNESCO, a technical meeting to address emergency needs and plan first-aid measures at the property is foreseen in October 2016. ”

Why The Bosra Site is Very Important

Ancient Roman Theatre. Image Source:

Ancient Roman Theatre. Image Source:

  • This site is very important for the islamic religion and for the continuation to study this religion. Mohammed was said to become the prophet after his first visit at Bosra according to the islamic religion. If a lot of the structures and temples were destroyed by war it will be hard to understand the religion of the past.
  • One of the oldest mosques, Mosque of Al- Omari has been studied by archaeologists to understand the meaning of the people. Unesco 2016 also states that the cathedral of Bosra has gave archaeologists a vast array of information to understand the early advances in the architecture of the churches. 
  • Unesco 2016 says Bosra also inhabited 80,000 people at one point and knowing what led to its decline can help us understand other parts of Syria that are having conflict today as well. It also has artifacts and features from the Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad empires whom all left traces of their empires and signifies the history to be learned at the site. All of this history allowed Bosra to be alive and well for over 2500 years and remain mostly intact. 


UNESCO World Heritage Center. Ancient City Of Bosra. 2016. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

UNESCO World Heritage Center. The Criteria for Selection. 2016. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

World Monuments Fund.  Basra Ancient City. 2016. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

Abdelaziz, Salma. 2015. ISIS Publicly Smashes Syrian Artifacts. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

Manning, Sturt. 2015. Why ISIS Destroys Antiquities. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

Smith-Spark, Laura. 2015. Syria: ISIS Destroys Ancient Muslim Shrines in Palymra. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2016.
Ancient History, Modern Destruction: Assessing the Current Status of Syria’s World Heritage Sites Using High-Resolution Satellite Imagery. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

UNESCO World Heritage Center. 2015. The Director-General of UNESCO calls for all Syrians to commit to the safeguarding of cultural Heritage in Bosra and Idlib. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

Society for American Archaeology. 2016. Chapter 5. Archaeology and the Law. Electronic Document. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

Dr Amr al-Azm. 2014. Open Letter Calling on UN to Ban Trade in Syrian Artifacts. Accessed December 2, 2016.

UNESCO World Heritage Center. 2016. Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016. Accessed on December 2, 2016.

UNESCO World Heritage Center. 2016. Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013. Accessed on December 4, 2016.

2 thoughts on Ancient City of Bosra

  1. This is a great start! I enjoy all of the photos that you have included to illustrate the points you are making! For your link to the Bosra video, you could include a description and why you think it is important to watch. Also, check out the example archaeological site page to see how we would like you to do the citations (we will go over this in class on December 1st as well).

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