October 20, 2014
In the face of political instability in the Near East, this workshop aims to generate an international dialogue on cultural heritage. Awareness is fundamental—we can’t just be outraged by the destruction perpetrated by ISIS and other groups, we must articulate responses and initiatives. Political dynamics affect attitudes toward cultural heritage as well as the ways in which remains of ancient cultures play into notions of national identity. Both foreign and local archaeologists strive to align their research perspectives with revised procedures and expectations of governments, in addition to responding to local cultural and social dynamics of the regions in which they carry out fieldwork. This session will produce informative discourse among specialists and researchers in different countries, and aspires to create a constructive platform for effectively responding to nation-specific needs and requirements in the ever-changing political environments of individual nations.
Stephen Batiuk of the University of Toronto will present the Computational Research on the Ancient Near East (CRANE) Project, an international collaboration of researchers who study a wealth of diverse excavation data focusing on the Orontes Watershed of Syria and southeastern Turkey.
Scott Branting of the University of Chicago discusses the use of geospatial technologies and data for monitoring situations within Syria as part of ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative – Planning for Safeguarding Heritage Sites in Syria (SHI). SHI is a research project undertaken in collaboration with the US Department of State. It investigates both the benefits and limitations of the use of geospatial technologies, like satellite data, and the ways in which the limitations are overcome within the framework of the broader project. Ultimately it seeks to develop best practices that are relevant for conflict zones in neighboring regions. Michael Danti of Boston University presents SHI’s objectives, activities, and preliminary results.
Susan Kane of Oberlin College takes us to Libya. During the 42 years of the Gaddafi regime, Libya’s cultural heritage from the pre-Arab period was seen as a painful reminder of Libya’s colonial past and therefore neglected for political reasons. Now, in the context of the many challenges facing the new Libya, cultural heritage struggles for recognition and support from both the government and the public. Educational programs are needed to promote awareness and appreciation of the long history of Libyan culture. Just after the revolution in 2011, there were hopeful signs as NGOs and local initiatives to support cultural heritage were organized all over Libya, many with the support of the foreign missions working in the country.
Lastly, Djalalitdin Mirzaev of Termez Archaeological Museum in Uzbekistan offers a fresh, novel viewpoint from a region of critical importance. He writes: “Located at the crossroads of the ancient Steppe Route and Silk Road, the border area of the Amu Darya possesses a rich cultural heritage and offers a living testimony to thousands of years of history and to the unique contributions of an astounding variety of peoples and cultures. Part of this area belongs to the Republic of Uzbekistan, which is experiencing a period of formation in terms of socioeconomic reforms. In this process, the Termez Archaeological Museum has become a guarantor of safety and the provision of cultural heritage for all, as well as a center for international cooperation.”
Andrea De Giorgi is assistant professor at FSU Classics. He has done research for many years in Syria and Turkey and now directs the Cosa Excavations in Italy. Elif Denel is the Director of ARIT in Ankara and assistant director of the Tell Taynat Excavations in Turkey. De Giorgi and Denel serve as co-chairs of the AIA’s Near Eastern Archaeology Interest Group.
The Near Eastern Archaeology Interest Group will meet at the upcoming Annual Meeting. All are welcome to attend. Check the program for meeting details.