We need to understand this often overlooked damage before we can think about repairing heritage damaged during conflict
Ongoing conflict in the Middle East has given heritage an unexpected and tragic spotlight; the targeted destruction of heritage sites across the region has given rise to widespread condemnation and increased legislation to protect these sites which represent our common history of humanity. In addition to increased incidents of looting – often for the sake of funding further hostile activities, or to provide a livelihood where few may be found - numerous sites have been deliberately and accidentally damaged and destroyed. Recent high-profile examples of these are the destruction of Palmyra, Mosul and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, but examples range widely on a geographical and temporal scale.
What happens to the stone structure when a bullet impacts? How does this impact vary between stone types? Does the previous deterioration of a surface (e.g. weathering) play a role in its response to an impact? Ballistic impacts, such as bullets, can leave scars that not only aesthetically affect the heritage site but could be the surface manifestation of a much larger fracture network within the stone work which can threaten long-term conversation of the heritage site.
Our current work includes extensive laboratory testing of microscale alterations associated with bullet impacts, and their long-term consequences for deterioration of affected stonework. We also run a number of projects on heritage sites including Sabratha in northern Libya and the Royal Garrison Church in Portsmouth. We also offer training for interested parties, and are exploring the viability of forensic methods to identify residue on sides.