Syria's abhorrent human rights record and the current civil war have eclipsed the country's other distinction: It's an archaeological wellspring that tracks back to Neolithic times. Early cultures — Phoenician, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Greek (under Alexander the Great) — have left their imprint, some incredibly well-preserved until the uprising.
Argument rages on whether this revolt is primarily antiauthoritarian or has given way to sectarian rivalries. What's undeniable is that the country's religious gathering places from its ancient civilizations — pagan, Christian and Muslim — are being plundered or destroyed.
UNESCO, Interpol and specialized heritage police are on alert, but there is fear of a repeat of the pillage that happened after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which reportedly lost more than 47,000 historic artifacts.