In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef is restoring an ancient stone bust from Palmyra. This is just one of hundreds of artefacts being arduously restored after the Islamic State damaged them. The bust was in pieces when its restoration began last year.

Statues and sculptures were destroyed during the two seizures of the old city of Palmyra. In March the country will go in its ninth year of war.

The bust, which dates back 1,800 years, shows a woman with jewellery and rich clothes. The bust was damaged in 2015, during the first offensive on the city by the jihadists. “The hands and face were lost completely, also parts of the dress” says Youssef.

After Syrian government forces managed to reoccupy Palmyra with the help of Russian military in March 2016, the bust and other artefacts was transferred to Damascus and archived in boxes.

This is the first step the team of 12 archaeologists took before proceeding with the restoration job.

Former Head of Syrian Antiquities, Mamoun Abdulkarim said that there were broken artefacts transported in empty ammunition boxes.

The total number of artefacts remains unknown, considering the state they were found in.

Furthermore, there is a lack of documentation for the artefacts, since a big part of it was damaged with the antiquities and computers in the Palmyra museum.

This adds to the restoration challenge since “a statue needs pictures … in order to be rebuilt”, archaeologist Raed Abbas said.