UNESCO to watch archaeological sites by satellite

Satellites will check the condition of world heritage sites.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  July 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM
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LONDON, July 2 (UPI) -- The United Nations agency UNESCO will use more monitoring by satellites to protect threatened ancient archeological sites, it announced.

UNESCO and UNITAR-UNOSAT (United Nations Institute for Training and Research- United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Program) signed an agreement to better protect the world's cultural and natural heritage sites by using geospatial photographic capabilities, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said Wednesday at a conference in London. The agreement comes as ancient sites in the Middle East are under assault by terrorist organizations which include the Islamic State (IS).

IS overtook the 2,000 year-old archaeological site at Palmyra, Syria, an city of Greek and Roman ruins, in May and has threatened to destroy it. Bokova said IS has destroyed mausoleums, temples and statues around the area on a wide scale, and planted explosives within the ancient city. It previously destroyed Assyrian ruins and artifacts in Syria.

Monitoring by satellite could reduce and document the extent of destruction, prepare reconstruction and provide evidence for international courts of justice, she added.

"We are very worried about Libya, being a divided country. We have a small office there and are working with the local governments and mayors. We are very concerned about the expansion of Isis (IS) and youth radicalization. We are worried about Somalia. This (the satellite program) is our response to extremism," Bokova said.

The agreement was signed Wednesday in Bonn, Germany.

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