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10:07, 21 March 2017

Saving Syria's heritage: Archaeologists discover invisible solution

AKIPRESS.COM - _95246891_syriamosaic The recent plundering of priceless artefacts from Syria and Iraq by both terrorists and criminal gangs has taken place on an unprecedented scale, reports BBC.

Stolen items have been turning up in Europe and the US, where they have then been offered to private collectors.

The UN heritage body Unesco says the illicit trade is worth millions of dollars.

But an innovative solution may now be at hand which enables archaeologists to trace precious artefacts.

Working in secret, in areas outside Syrian government control, Syrian archaeologists have begun painting some of the country's most valuable artefacts with a clear, traceable liquid.

The solution is invisible to the naked eye, but detectable under ultra-violet light.

The technology is provided by Smartwater, the British crime prevention firm, and was developed by scientists at Reading University and Shawnee State University in the US.

Roman mosaics, Byzantine pottery and ancient sculptures are all being treated with the liquid in a desperate race to stop Syria's heritage being plundered by terrorists and criminal gangs.

The hope is that it will deter both collectors and smugglers of stolen items with the threat of prosecution, since each artefact bears a unique, identifiable code.

The project has been overseen by a renowned Syrian archaeologist, Professor Amr Al-Azm.

He told the BBC that the Smartwater tracing material, which has been designed not to harm ceramics and other ancient materials, was delivered to Turkey in January and then shipped across the Syrian border a month later.

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