October 26, 2006


Preview: Archaeology in Conflict Conference, London

The University College London's Centre for Applied Archaeology is organizing a very interesting scholarly event entitled Archaeology in Conflict Conference - Cultural Heritage, Site Management and Sustainable Development in Conflict and Post-Conflict States in the Middle East. It will take place from November 10-12, 2006. Let me quote the web site:

The conference ‘Archaeology in Conflict’aims to increase understanding of the underlying ethics in archaeological site management in conflict and post-conflict states. Specific attention will be given to the relationship between conservation management models, sustainable development, conflict resolution, post-war recovery, and the economic needs of contemporary society. These issues will be addressed by exploring the impact of conservation and archaeology on local communities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. The conference will provide archaeologists with the opportunity to develop a framework contextualising heritage management, social theory, sustainable development and poverty relief within the discipline of archaeology. It aims to define key aspects in archaeological theory, heritage management, funding schemes and policy approaches. Other topics include the impact of conservation work, poverty relief and capacity building within the practice and theory of archaeology throughout these geographical regions.

One of the sessions will be about Archaeology and Conflict in Iraq: present problems and future prospects, organized by Michael Seymour and Dr. Roger Matthews:

The past three years have been extremely difficult for Iraq's cultural institutions, and for those outside Iraq aiming to provide useful assistance. This session aims to address the problems still being faced, and to share information on the efforts being made by organisations and individuals within Iraq and internationally to protect the country's cultural heritage. By examining several case studies we aim to conclude with practical guidelines regarding the management of heritage development projects that occur during development projects in Iraq. Some issues to be addressed include:

• What do we now know about site looting and the trade in illicit Iraqi antiquities?
• How far have initiatives to help support Iraq’s museums, libraries and universities been able to perform their intended work?
• What are the most pressing needs facing Iraqi heritage today, and how can these be addressed?

I don't have the financial resources to attend so I would love to hear reports (to be shared on this blog if allowed) about the following lectures:

Donny George
Former Director-General of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Republic of Iraq
Looters …Governments … Who is Responsible?

This is a study in depth for the real reasons that led to the mass looting of the Museums and Archaeological sites, this study is mostly from personal experience for thirty years of working in the field and office in the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq, not blaming the foreign forces that occupied Iraq after April 2003, not blaming the dealers outside the country, in Europe or the United States, and not blaming the neighbor countries, the roles of all these are already known, but going deep in to the economical, educational, and the political systems of Iraq, as an example of building up the reasons that led to that large scale of looting of the Museums and Archaeological sites.

Elizabeth Stone
Professor Near Eastern Archaeology, State University New York Stony Brook, USA
Patterns of Looting of Archaeological sites in Southern Iraq

... Immediately after the 2003 war, it was reported that the earlier looting was continuing unabated, and photographic evidence of the damage began to emerge. However, in spite of photographs illustrating the looting, some taken from the air and some from the ground, the unstable situation in Iraq prevented any systematic appraisal of the extent and nature of the problem either by reporters or by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. One result of the 2003 war, however, was the extensive imaging of southern Iraq at high resolution by the Digital Globe Corporation. These Quickbird images have a resolution of 0.6 m., making every looting hole readily visible. Of the 1829 archaeological sites recorded in the Uruk, Eridu and Nippur surveys conducted by Adams, Wright and Nissen, only a handful lie beyond this coverage. The coverage provided by these images do, however, have some limitations. The Digital Globe Corporation focused its efforts on southern Iraq before the onset of the 2003 war, which means that much of our data records the depredations that occurred during the period of the embargo. However, where later imagery is available, we have been able to compare images from this early period to those taken later. This paper will present a preliminary assessment of the damage caused by looting visible at the sites recorded in these surveys. Information on the presence of looting and an estimate of what percent of the site was damaged was recorded for each site, as was site size and when it reached its apogee. These data allow an evaluation of the relative degree to which period of occupation, site size and proximity to towns (with antiquities markets), roads and villages contributed to a site’s vulnerability. Those examples of damaged sites recorded in multiple images taken at different dates makes it possible to assess the chronology of the looting process.

Gaetano Palumbo
Director of Archaeological Conservation Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, World Monuments Fund
& Neville Agnew
Principal Project Specialist, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles
Building professional capacity for cultural heritage conservation and management: the GCI-WMF Iraq Cultural Heritage Initiative

... The Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund partnered in late 2003 to form the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative, and assist the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq to redevelop its professional and managerial skills. ... This resulted in the development of a series of training courses aimed at various categories of SBAH’s professional staff, from regional inspectors to archaeologists and surveyors. The training programs covered topics, from the use of surveying equipment, computers, and digital photography (with equipment purchased by the Initiative and organizations such as UNESCO), to matters related to the documentation, assessment of condition, and management of cultural heritage. Together with the courses, a parallel project is developing a GIS database to inventory the archaeological and historic sites and monuments of Iraq - a conservation tool that will enable SBAH personnel to assess damage to sites and plan conservation interventions to reduce the risk of further deterioration. The database is presently in the testing phase, while pilot projects for the collection of data in the field have been conducted by training SBAH personnel. ... The paper illustrates the activities conducted under the Initiative and advocates the organization of similar projects not only in conflict or post-conflict areas, but also, and perhaps especially, in “pre-conflict” areas, where the availability of inventories and personnel trained in preventive conservation may greatly reduce the damage that war and civil strife normally inflicts on cultural heritage properties.

Harriet Crawford
Chairman British School of Archaeology in Iraq, Hon. Visiting Professor UCL, Research Fellow, McDonald Institute Cambridge
The British School of Archaeology in Iraq: the work of one NGO

The BSAI is the only academic body in the UK devoted to the study of the archaeology, history and culture of Iraq. Its activities relating to the recent conflict fall into two parts. The first, in the run-up to the war, concentrated on lobbying government and the military as well as disseminating information through the media on the threat to the heritage of Iraq.
The second fell into the period after hostilities ceased and at first were concentrated in helping to assess the scale and nature of the damage. Then came the efforts to help Iraqi colleagues trying to repair it by supplying vital equipment, books, and short training courses as appropriate. In order to implement such a programme close cooperation with the authorities both in the UK and in Iraq was essential. A considerable sum of money also had to raised by appeal to members of the School and to the public. The heritage of Iraq is not an irrelevance or a luxury, it is an important tool in re-creating a feeling of national unity and identity and, potentially, a vital economic resource.

Jeff Morgan
Executive Director, Global Heritage Fund, US

[topic not announced]

Josie Thompson
Head of Iraq Programme, Global Heritage Fund, USA

[topic not announced]

Lamia al-Ghailani-Werr
Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, UK

[topic not announced]

McGuire Gibson
Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
Culture as Afterthought: U.S. Planning and Non-Planning in the Invasion of Iraq.

The devastation of cultural heritage in the 2003 war, epitomized by the looting of the Iraq National Museum, was almost universal. Institutes of art, music, dance, theater, folklore, crafts, etc. were looted as thoroughly as the museums in Baghdad, Mosul, and Babylon. The minor effort at planning for heritage protection, carried out as part of the Future of Iraq Project in the U. S. State Department, had little or no effect since all the efforts of the Project were ignored by the Pentagon. It is gradually being recognized that there was almost no planning of any kind beyond the invasion itself. One approach to the Pentagon resulted in Ýhe [sic] adding of thousands of archaeological sites and museums to the no-strike list, on which were already numerous mosques and standing monuments in cities, but the emphasis on protecting these places from indigenous looters was not part of the plans. Inadequate force levels dictated priorities for securing certain installations, such as oil-related industry, but even banks and ministries were allowed to be looted. Had scholars been able to get across the long-term central role of antiquities for Iraq's economic future, perhaps some protection might have been given. Culture was held in such disregard by American planners that it was sub-contracted to the Italians, who did in fact make real efforts to halt looting in the Dhi Qar province. Meanwhile, the rest of the provinces in southern Iraq were being, and are being, looted on an industrial scale. Only the information that some parts of the resistance are being funded through sales of antiquities is making the occupying forces think about halting the looting or at least the chain of smuggling out of the country.

Rene Teijgeler
Research and Management Cultural Heritage, The Netherlands
Embedded archaeology: does it work?

The question I want to discuss is whether or not it is possible to protect cultural heritage in times of an armed conflict from the inside. As a reserve officer of the Dutch army and a heritage expert I was send to the US embassy as the senior advisor for the Iraqi Ministry of Culture to help protect Iraq’s heritage. The comparison with “embedded journalism” urged itself upon me. Of course there are many differences but nevertheless the questions raised about the ‘embeds’ I could ask myself too. Was the level of oversight too strict and was I too sympathetic to the American side of the war, in other words was I one of the professionals who became "inbedded" in stead of “embedded”? For several reasons I had complete freedom of action.Yet the severe security situation that only grew worse as time passed made it very difficult to move around. It was not without reason that almost all NGO’s and IO’s had left Iraq. Instead of post-war reconstruction I was faced with the difficult task of peri-war (re-)construction. The killing American bureaucracy as well as the slow cogwheels of the military authorities hampered me seriously in getting things done. Taking stock today I dare say that I was able to save a little of Iraq’s rich heritage and I would probably do it again though I could not do as much as I would have liked to.


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