The man who looked after the Roman ruins in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra is reported to have been killed by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Khaled Asaad was taken hostage by the group after it seized the Unesco World Heritage site earlier this year.
The family of the 82-year-old scholar said he had been beheaded by IS fighters, according to Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim.
Mr Asaad had spent more than 50 years working on Palmyra.
He was head of antiquities at the ancient ruins, which is considered one of the most important historic sites in the Middle East.
‘Curse on the city’
On Tuesday, Mr Abdulkarim said the scholar’s family told him that Mr Asaad had been killed and his body hung from a column in Palmyra’s main square.
“Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to the place and to history would be beheaded,” Mr Abdulkarim said.
“The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on [Palmyra] and every column and every archaeological piece in it.”
IS fighters, who control large areas of Syria and Iraq, captured the site from Syrian government forces in May.
The group has previously destroyed ancient ruins in Syria and Iraq but it is unclear how much damage they have caused at Palmyra.
UN cultural organisation Unesco says its destruction would be “an enormous loss to humanity”.
Syrian troops have sought to drive IS militants out of the area in recent months and there has been fierce fighting in nearby towns – but the group remains in control of Palmyra.