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.

October 24, 2006


United Nations Day

Today is the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter on 24 October 1945 which has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. The UN is an imperfect but more-needed-than-ever organization. Long live international co-operation! The UN's cultural subsidiary UNESCO esp. is one of the few institutions around the world today that is almost universally appreciated. Let us all remember that, in the runup to the Iraq War, the UN and its weapons inspectors insisted on exhausting nonviolent ways of resolving the issues surrounding the Ba'ath regime in Iraq, only to be cast aside by the US and its Coalition of the Willing. The UN nevertheless followed the developments in Iraq closely and provided assistance as much as possible. However, ever since the devastating bomb attack on its Baghdad headquarters in August 2003 whereby 22 staff members including its seasoned and respected mission head Sergio Vieira de Mello were killed, UNAMI's (UN Assistance Mission for Iraq) presence on the ground has understandably been minimal. From the beginning, UNESCO has been involved in the efforts to salvage and protect the cultural heritage of Iraq, usually in co-operation with other specialized organizations, and mostly from outside the country.

October 23, 2006



You may know the British alternative rock band Chumbawamba from their mainstream hit record Tubthumping (1997). But did you know they also recorded a comment on the illegal art market in general with a mention of the sorry state of the archaeological heritage in Iraq in particular?

On eBay from the album Un (2004)

Mr Kokoschka, it just happened again
Sad, so sad
They struck the museum like a hurricane
Sad, so sad
All of our culture, it's dead and its gone
Sad, so sad
From Babylon, baby, back to Babylon
Sad, so sad
There's stuff you find along the way and stuff you leave behind
And it all ends up as stuff that you can buy
On eBay, from Babylon back to Babylon
On eBay, from Babylon back to Babylon

Listen to a sample of the song in Windows Media or RealOne Player format (you can buy the album at Amazon.com).


Garen & Carleton

An article in the New York Daily News updates us on Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton. Micah, former hostage in Iraq in 2004, and his fiancée Marie-Hélène—when's the wedding, guys?—have been busy with promoting and talking about their book American Hostage and the plight of the archaeological heritage of Iraq. As a consequence, finishing the documentary on the looting of sites in southern Iraq (during the shooting of which Micah was taken hostage in the first place!) is taking longer than originally planned. "The last two years also have been a bittersweet time for the couple, with the violence in Iraq showing no signs of abating. 'We have no plans to go back,' Garen said. 'The country is far too dangerous for us to go back and do the kind of work we were doing. Maybe at some point in the very distant future.' By spring, the couple hopes to complete their feature-length film for theatrical release. 'It's been put off for a year because of all the work around the book and the book tour,' Garen said. 'We have about 300 hours of footage that we're working through,' Carleton said. When completed, the couple's film may become the only record of some the region's priceless historical artifacts."

By the way, a month ago, the Adnkronos International agency released an article that seems to confirm Micah's version of events of what happened 11 days before he got kidnapped. At the time, he made public that Italian soldiers in Nasiriyyah had without justification shot at an ambulance, killing people in it (see Yahoo! News). This was vehemently denied by the Italian commander at the time.

• "Italian military deny having turned back US reporter kidnapped in Iraq," in Yahoo! News, online, August 16, 2004
• "Italy: 3 Soldiers Charged With Iraq Ambulance Shooting," in Adnkronos International (Italy), online, September 14, 2006
• P.H.B. Shin, "Heady days for Iraq captive," in Daily News (New York), October 22, 2006

October 22, 2006


Muazzez Çığ

I'd like to draw attention to what's going on with a Turkish colleague, Sumerologist Dr. Muazzez İ. Çığ. She is a scholar of Sumerian cuneiform texts, now in her 90s. She has long retired from her position at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Turkish Islamist fundamentalists have taken her and her publisher İsmet Öğütücü to court for what she wrote in a book. She is charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” and “insulting religion." The book in question, Vatandaslik Tepkilerim, is a collection of letters she sent to artists and politicians (e.g., Prime Minister Erdoğan en Foregn Minister Abdullah Gül). News.com.au: "... Cig said the headscarf - a controversial issue in Turkey - was first worn by Sumerian priestesses initiating young people into sex, but without prostituting themselves." This ritual-prostitution link was already broached upon in two of her previous books published in 1995 and 1997. Nobody took offense at the time... Çığ and Öğütücü face a prison sentence between 9 months and 3 years. The court case is scheduled for November 1. It seems to me that this is yet another example of how the Iraq War has further disturbed the fragile but gradually evolving and adjusting balance between tradition and modernity in the Middle East. The fast pace of societal change is disconcerting enough to a lot of people in the West (North America, Japan and Europe), in the Middle East it is however magnified by war, increasing anarchy and mayhem. Just like fundamentalism and conservative radicalism have been on the rise in the West, so they are in the Middle East. Science and scientists are a convenient focal point in this confrontation, as is made clear by, for instance, the attacks on the theory of evolution in the US, and now this case in Turkey. The article in the International Herald Tribune from earlier this year illustrates what a great educator Dr. Çığ is. She does not deserve this kind of treatment by cultural barbarians.

One more thing: when recently the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize for Literature, Dr. Çığ, who has been a staunch, lifelong defender of Kemal Atatürk's legacy, wrote a letter to the Nobel Prize committee expressing her displeasure. Like the great majority of Turks, she resents his writing about the events surrounding the deaths of 100,000s of Armenians in 1915, events that are characterized by many (esp. outside Turkey) as a genocide. Cig: "May be we cannot judge the literary aspect of Orhan Pamuk as well as you do, because a large group of people do not like his books. However, his being highly appreciated, because [sic; "even though"] he wrongly blamed his own country, is the matter that makes us feel sorry. As [Pamuk] said, if there were no freedom of thought, his last novel 'Kar' could have been forbidden, because it was not telling the truths." [Pamuk of course did not say that his book was not telling the truth, this is an accident of translation from the Turkish, I am sure] I believe that nationalism in all its forms has brought and still brings forth almost inevitably many excesses. As a Belgian, I have experienced firsthand the exaggerated antagonism between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons, craftily exploited by politicians for their own short-sighted gain time and again. Also, as a student of my native country's history, I know what it is like to be at the receiving end of nationalisms: the Low Countries have been at one time or another a possession of the Romans, French, Austrians, Spanish, Germans, Franks, etc. Again and again the big brothers fought their battles on our soil: Waterloo, Bastogne, Ypres, etc. So Dr. Çığ's position on Pamuk is highly ironic in my opinion. Nevertheless it does not invalidate her cause. After all, she is not taking him to court or threatening him. She is entitled to her opinion just like he is. I just happen to think that historical fact is on his side. Anyway, this court case is obviously also another salvo in the ongoing battle in Turkey between Islamist fundamentalism and Atatürk secularism of which she is a well-known champion.

Çığ, Muazzez İlmiye," in Republic of Turkey. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, online, 2005
• S. Arsu, "After 4,000 years, love keeps poem alive," in The International Herald Tribune (France), February 14, 2006
• "Case Against Sumerologist Çığ and Publisher Öğütücü...," in Eyes of the World/Turkey (Turkey), online, n.d. [2006]
• M. Cig , "Nobel Üdülü Jürýsý' ne/To Esteemed Members of Nobel Prize Jury," in Muazzez İlmiye Çığ. Sümerolog - Sumerologist (Turkey), online, October 10 and 12, 2006
• "Academic faces trial over headscarf article," in News.com.au (Australia), online, October 19, 2006
• A. Erkul, "Nieuwe hoofddoekrel zet Turkije in vuur en vlam," in De Morgen (Belgium), October 19, 2006

Selected bibliography of Dr. Çığ
• S.N. Kramer, H. Kızılyay and --, "Selected Sumerian Literary Texts. Final Report of a Fullbright Research Year in Istanbul Museum of Ancient Orient," in Orientalia, 22, 2 (1953)
• -- and H. Kızılyay, Yeni Sumer Cagina Ait Nippur Hukuki ve Idari Belgeleri/Neusumerische Rechts- und Verwaltungsurkunden aus Nippur - I (Turk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlari, 6, 7), Ankara 1965
• -- and S.N. Kramer, "The Ideal Mother: A Sumerian Portrait," in Belleten, 40 (1976), pp. 413-421
• --, H. Kızılyay and S.N. Kramer, İstanbul Sümer Edebî Tablet ve Parçaları 2, Istanbul, 1976
• "Atatürk and the Beginnings of Cuneiform Studies in Turkey," in Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 40, 2 (Autumn 1988), pp. 211-216
Kur'an, İncil ve Tevrat'ın Sümer'deki Kökeni [The Origins of the Koran, the Bible and the Torah in Babylon], Istanbul, 1995
Sümerli Ludingirra. Geçmise Dönük Bilimkurgu [Sumerian Lindingirra. A Retrospective Science Fiction], Istanbul, 1996
İbrahim Peygamber [The Prophet Abraham], Istanbul, 1997
İnanma'nın Aşkı. Sumer'de İnanç ve Kutsal Evlenme [The Love of İnanna], Istanbul, 1998
Dunyanin En Eski Yazilari Istanbul'da : Sumer Tabletleri/The World's Oldest Written Documents in Istanbul: Sumerian Tablets," Eylul, 1998
Hititler ve Hattuşa. İştar'in Kaleminden [The Hittites and Hattusha. Written by Ishtar], Istanbul, 2000
Ortadoğu Uygarlık Mirası [Civilization Heritage in the Middle-East], Istanbul, 2002
Vatandaslik Tepkilerim [My Reactions to Citizenship], 2005

See also the October 31 post IAA appeal for Dr. Çig and the November 5 post Dr. Çig update.