German Archaeologists in Iraq

For my last blog post for ANP 264, I explored the topic of “Material Culture at Risk.” At the time, I specifically focused on a Newsweek article I stumbled across that discussed historic sites in Libya that were at risk of being destroyed by ISIS. The article sparked my interest, and I mentioned in my previous blog post that I was interested in exploring the topic further. While I did not initially plan to focus my blog post on the same subject, I explored similar content for this week’s assignment. In preparation for this week’s blog post, I chose to search twitter for the class hashtag (#anp264ss15). A tweet Ethan shared about German archaeologists protecting cultural heritage in Iraq caught my eye.

Upon reading the article, titled “German archaeologists will help protect cultural heritage in Northern Iraq,” that the tweet referenced, I learned that high ranking officials in the Dohuk province of Iraq signed an agreement in early February of this year with a professor at a German university. The agreement aims to preserve historic sites in the province and allows for surveys to expand to cover a larger area in hopes of discovering “ancient and historical settlements.” The agreement signed by officials of the Dohuk province and the German archaeologist paves the way for the historic sites to be preserved. For example, construction to expand a major road connecting Baghdad and Instanbul that runs through the area has been suspended to protect the sites and allow the archaeologists to work. Part of the route has also been changed.

I also saw evidence in the article of stereophotogramity, as archaeologists have used drones to make a 3D image of the area they are surveying. Such imaging has revealed 92 sites. Recent surveys have also demonstrated evidence of a lower city in the area –  one that is now believed to possibly have been a major administrative city.

While the area is considered one of the safest provinces in Iraq, it is feeling the effects of the IS terrorist movement. The article cited that the area holds more than 1/2 million refugees. In spite of the “political and humanitarian challenges.,” the Governor of Dohuk signed the agreement because he sees importance of preserving the history of the area. He also believes that it is important to continue life as normal, sending a message in the process that the terrorist threat will not prevent the province from performing important duties like preserving historic sites.

Looking ahead, I am still interested in learning more about how other areas affected by the IS terrorist movement are responding to the threat of historic sites being destroyed.





2 thoughts on “German Archaeologists in Iraq

  1. I didn’t actually read your last blog post about ISIS but it sounds really interesting. People rarely stop to think about how archaeology is being affected by our current events. I know that I would certainly never think about how ISIS could be damaging archaeological sites. Hopefully because of that article and others like it this is something that people will start to think about more often.
    As for the recent article you read about the German archaeologist that is also something I had not heard about. To be single handedly in charge of the fate of all of those sites might be a lot of pressure. On the other hand, it’s good that the government recognized that it is something they should put a real archaeologist in charge of rather than trying to take on the task themselves. The 3D imaging that technology today has made capable is so impressive. Without it there would be 92 sites that would have gone undiscovered. One of which, the lower city, sounds like it contains a lot of valuable information.
    It’s great that the governor of Dohuk realizes how important these archaeological sites are. A lot of government officials fail to recognize their significance and allow them to be destroyed. At the same time as working to preserve these sites the governor is also sending a political message that the terrorists can’t interrupt their lives. I think it’s really interesting to think about archaeology and politics in collaboration with one another. Maybe this is something that will start to happen more and more as people begin to realize the importance of archaeological sites.

  2. I found that article very compelling. Given the political turbulence of the area, it is incredibly important that the continued preservation of those sites. There have been reports that ISIS is destroying ancient Mesopotamian sites in Iraq, which is quite alarming. In the cradle of civilization, artifacts that have told archaeologists so much about ancient Mesopotamian culture are now being destroyed. Plus it is hard to tell just how many have been destroyed. Thus, there is serious risk that archaeologists may never be able to recover information that may be forever lost.

    What makes the destruction of these artifacts hard to stomach, besides the fact that ISIS is destroying artifacts, is that the artifacts are evidence of the first empires and states in the history of mankind. These artifacts were the first real signs of modern humans, capable of establishing a society based on law, social and political hierarchy, and a division of labor. The sites can tell us so much information on how humans made the transition from nomads to sedentary peoples. It’s not just the history of Mesopotamia that is being threatened, it’s the history of human civilization. What that German university is doing is saving our human heritage. It is dangerous work, but I find it just as necessary as journalists who are reporting on ISIS. This may be coming off as a political speech, but that is not my aim. I just want to highlight the fact that ISIS is dangerous not just because of the atrocities that they commit on today’s people. It is dangerous because it is devaluing humanity’s work throughout history.

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