Last year, Islamic State troops moved into the ancient city of Palmyra and began waging war on what the terrorist group labeled as "false idolatry."
More likely, ISIS aimed to erase a large part of Syria's rich cultural history, which was remembered by monuments of Christian, Sufi, and Shiite origin. The desert oasis was once known as a melting pot of faiths and ethnicities, and by demolishing its artifacts, the jihadists also hoped to eradicate knowledge of its diverse legacy.
Now, more than one year after the occupation of Palmyra began, the group has released previously unseen video footage of ISIS fighters looting and smashing artifacts, and even crushing Syrian mummies under the wheels of bulldozers.
Soldiers are shown entering one of the city's museums and smashing limestone busts resembling classic Syrian funerary reliefs. An unidentified structure is blown up by an explosive. And five mummies, exhumed from the sarcophagi, are unceremoniously flattened on the road by a large vehicle.
It's possible the embalmed humans were once housed in the Palmyra National Museum—a site that cultural heritage groups scrambled to relocate last year before ISIS invaded the city. Syria's Director General for Antiquities and Museums, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told National Geographic that approximately 95 percent of collections were saved, but the mummies' fates were left unclear.
The museum's mummies were discovered in tombs dating back to the first and second century BC, and could be traced back to a civilization called the Tadmour. "The valley of the tombs of Palmyra is one of the most wonderful places of the region of antiquities in the Graeco-Roman world like the most famous tomb valleys in Egypt," said Italian archaeologist Paulo Matthiae.
During their occupation of the city, the Islamic State leveled some of Syria's most well-preserved monuments, including the Temple of Baalshamin and the UNESCO-protected Arch of Triumph.
Recently, archaeologists and preservationists with the Digital Institute of Archaeology have been attempting to restore these sites through 3D technology, and even installed a scale model of the Arch of Triumph in London's Trafalgar Square. Despite the tragic loss of cultural heritage, many museum administrators have found a silver lining, and admit they're now more knowledgeable about shielding precious artifacts from the ravages of war.
The newly-released video was allegedly published to one of the Islamic State's official websites, according to a report from RT. It also appears that most of the footage was shot before May of this year, when Palmyra was recaptured by the Syrian Army and Russian forces.