The Terms of Heritage

By Kathryn McDonnell

Specialized terminology, such as stake holders, the “universal museum,” provenance, or even the phrases, “cultural property” or “cultural heritage,” is often used during discussions between law enforcement professionals, such as Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the US or the Carabinieri in Italy, diplomats (ICOMOS), lawyers, and scholars, including archaeologists. Although these terms allow us to sustain discussion across disciplines, they are often meaningless to non-specialists. In addition, this language can obscure the intellectual, emotional, and economic impact of the antiquities trade, much like the term “human trafficking” stands in for the more visceral, and potentially inflammatory, term “slavery.” My intent here is to break down some of these terms, describe their core concepts, and problematize some of the assumptions beneath them.

What is cultural heritage?

The terms cultural heritage or cultural property are intentionally broad, as they must encompass a world’s worth of objects, sites, and monuments. If you asked me to describe the cultural heritage of the United States, I might mention Gettysburg Battlefield, James Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland, or Chaco Canyon. I could also choose objects, such as the copy of the Declaration of Independence now in the National Archives, Native American arrowheads, or the sweetgrass baskets of Charleston, SC.

Sweetgrass basket

A sweetgrass basket

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Scooping Frogs and Excavating Statues in Turkey

By: Emily Coate, 2012 Heritage Fellow

The generosity of those behind the ASOR Heritage Fellowship afforded me my first opportunity to dig at a Near Eastern site. I participated in the excavations at Tell Tayinat, a settlement occupied during the Early Bronze and Iron Ages located in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. You may have heard the name in the news recently, owing to the discovery of a couple impressive statues this season. Particularly noteworthy is the head and torso of King Suppiluliuma, with a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription across his back. Continue reading

Contested Heritage and the New Museum(s) in Diyarbakır

By Laurent Dissard

The southeastern provinces of Turkey will soon be home to a series of new, state-of-the-art, archaeology museums. Such buildings are being (or have already been) planned, constructed, remodeled, or expanded. The Gaziantep Museum, for instance, houses many of the Roman mosaics of Zeugma unearthed before the construction of the Birecik Dam. Other mosaics, discovered during the expansion of Şanlıurfa’s sewage system, will be displayed in an Arkeopark near the city center.

Diyarbakır, a third city in southeastern Turkey, is not lagging behind. Work is underway to transform its citadel (içkale) into an archaeology museum. Recent finds at sites threatened by the Ilısu Dam will make up a large part of its collection. Hence, the displaced antiquities will slowly find their ways to a new home. A win-win situation for Turkey, it would seem. As the country develops its infrastructure, investing in dams, roads, and sewage systems, it is simultaneously seen as protecting its past. A paradox, nevertheless, since it is these attempts to modernize that are threatening the country’s cultural heritage in the first place.

A view of Diyarbakır’s içkale

A view from Diyarbakır’s içkale

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Archaeological Conservation Strategies in the Near East, Fri. Nov. 16

conservation session flyer

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By Suzanne Davis and LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

This year we are pleased to announce a new workshop session for the ASOR Annual Meeting, Archaeological Conservation Strategies in the Near East. Both conservators and archaeologists tend to present research within their own fields, effectively segregating the disciplines. But this year, thanks to ASOR, we have an opportunity to foster collaboration and promote information sharing among conservators and archaeologists working in the Near East. As conservators who work on excavations in the Near East, this topic is important to us and we hope you’ll find it interesting and important, too.

The workshop contributors will present multi-disciplinary projects and research on archaeological heritage from Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iraq. Topics examined will include regional trends in conservation, balancing preservation and access, site management, treatments of challenging materials, and collaborations with local conservation and archaeological communities. Moderated discussions between the presentations will engage the contributors as well as the audience, creating an ongoing dialogue that we hope will ultimately improve preservation for archaeological materials and sites in the Near East. If you have questions, insights, or just an interest in these topics, please join us. Continue reading

Outrage and the Plight of Cultural Heritage: an Outsider’s Perspective

e corbettBy Elena Corbett

While this blog post is addressed to ASOR’s archaeological community, I am not an archaeologist, nor do I specialize in the ancient.  And I find the “oriental” in ASOR cringe-worthy.  After getting a Master’s in Islamic Archaeology, I went to the dark side-modern Middle East history.  It’s a better place for people who hate pottery and love modern languages, for those who are more interested in living people, or at least people who were more recently living.  And it’s a better place for those of us who recognize and readily admit that we are political creatures, engaged—as are all producers of knowledge, archaeologists included—in what are ultimately political acts.  It was there among the moderns that this political self found a much more productive avenue of scholarly inquiry for a life-long obsession with archaeology.  Archaeology is, after all, politics.  And the map of the modern Middle East has its inception in exactly that, beginning with the “holy land” imaginary of the Victorian milieu mapped into reality by the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) in its Survey of Western Palestine (1871-1877)[1]. This map was destined after the Great War to replace the extant, indigenous holy land of the diverse late Ottoman Empire so embedded in unquestioned Abrahamic tradition and practice[2]. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 10-19-12

Assyriancourtesy-ezinemark.comArchaeologists working in northern Iraq have discovered a new Assyrian site in the vicinity of the historic Arbil city center, the head of the antiquities office in the Kurdish Province of Arbil, Haydar Hassan, was quoted as saying in an Iraqi newspaper.

The Egyptian city of Alexandria, home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, may have been built to align with the rising sun on the day of Alexander the Great’s birth, a new study finds. Continue reading

Frank Moore Cross: An Appreciation

FrankMooreCross

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Frank Moore Cross, a giant in the field of biblical studies and the ancient Near East, passed away at the age of 91 on October 17,2012. In a field rich with polymaths, Professor Cross stood at the pinnacle for his seminal scholarship, pedagogic devotion, professional leadership, personal warmth and humor, and intellectual accessibility. His ongoing influence on the scholarship of Israelite history, the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary forms, text criticism, Northwest Semitic paleography, orthography, and epigraphy, and typographical methodology attest to the brilliance of his analyses. Continue reading

Excavating Under the Egyptian Sun

A LoPintoBy: Andrew LoPinto, 2012 Platt Fellow

After a long and tiring journey, which consisted of a flight from Chicago to New York, a nine-hour layover in New York, a flight from New York to Frankfurt, Germany, a three hour layover in Frankfurt, a flight from Frankfurt to Cairo, an over-night stay in Cairo (the flight got in rather late), and a three hour drive…we finally arrived at Mendes!  Do not get me wrong, the flights were smooth and the company of the other expedition members made the trip much more tolerable than had I been alone, but in total, I was awake and on the move from 8:00am Monday morning until 8:00pm Tuesday night, and that does not include the over-night in Cairo nor the drive to Mendes. Continue reading

The Future of Our Past: New Technologies for New Audiences

By Catherine Foster and Brian Brown

 Certain images from the ancient past stand out in popular imagination: the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” Moses, David, Goliath and other characters from the Hebrew bible, and the Persian conflict with the Greeks, to name just a few.  But as any specialist knows, there is much more to the history and cultures of the ancient Near East. For example, our modern judicial system—with judges, witnesses, and court records—is based on similar practices from Iraq in the second millennium BCE, while most existing alphabets derived from the Phoenicians, seafaring merchants who sailed from Lebanon thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, the wider public does not know that this region—home to some of the earliest developments in the arts and sciences, religion, and political organization—continues to exert an influence on contemporary societies around the world. Part of the mission of the Ancient Middle East Education and Research Institute (AMEERI) is to remedy this situation by making study of the ancient past a normal part of public education and mainstream media. Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Ground Truthing on Cyprus

By: Micaela Carignano, 2012 Heritage Fellow

This summer, thanks to an ASOR Heritage Fellowship, I traveled to Cyprus to participate in the Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments Project (KAMBE).  The project, led by Sturt Manning of Cornell University and Kevin Fisher from the University of Arkansas, focuses on several Late Bronze Age sites in southern Cyprus.  Most of the research has involved the use of geophysical techniques to survey the landscapes surrounding previously excavated LBA sites. Continue reading

A builders’ heritage at Umm el-Jimal

Photo 1: Double Window at Umm el-Jimal

By: Bert de Vries (Calvin College) and Muaffaq Hazza (Umm el-Jimal)

In 2012 the Umm el-Jimal (UJ) Project received a grant from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) to engage in preservation and presentation of House XVII/XVIII, the very large Byzantine/Umayyad House famous for its fourth-floor level double windows (Photo 1). The objective was to preserve the ruin as it was and make it presentable, safe and understandable for visitors. This conservation project is a component of a larger effort to make Umm el-Jimal meaningful in a participatory way in the lives of various communities ranging from international tourists and scholars to the local residents of the UJ Municipality*.  See for example, the various components of the new website, www.ummeljimal.org, which is designed to serve these communities with multi-layered content like Site Histories, a Museum, a Guided Tour, the Education Curriculum Guide, a Research Library, Ethnological Films and much more. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup!

Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia (AFP/File, Hassan Ammar)

Dating back to the second century BC, the Nabataean archaeological site, also known as Madain Saleh, has long been hidden from foreign visitors in this ultra-conservative kingdom that rarely opens up to tourists. But now the largest and best preserved site of the Nabataean civilisation south of Petra in Jordan is the first Saudi archaeological site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and increasingly seeing tourists.

Around 2,100 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of Greek kings, a young wealthy man from Thebes was nearing the end of his life. Rather than age, he  may have succumbed to a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments. Continue reading

From Destruction to Archaeology: the significance of “Operation Anchor” for the Cultural Heritage of Jaffa.

By: Martin Peilstöcker 

During spring 1936 the nationalistic uprising of the Palestinian Arab population against Mandatory British rule and Jewish mass immigration became more and more violent. A strike was declared on Jaffa port, in those days still one of most important harbors of Palestine. Groups of Palestinians left the narrow alleys of the Old City, the “Kasbah,” carried out attacks on the representatives of the Mandatory government or on Jews and found shelter afterwards in the labyrinth of the long-grown city on the mound of biblical Yafo. The reaction of the British was both, violent and effective. Under the cover of announced measures to improve the infrastructure, three broad paths, each between 10 and 30 meters wide were opened in the Old City creating what looked like anchor-shaped trenches from above, giving the name to this operation. The trenches were created using large amounts of explosives to detonate and demolish more than 200 buildings (Gavish 1983).

Old City of Jaffa before and after Operation Anchor 1936

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History (and Microdebris) Uncovered at Dhiban

Excavating a Middle Islamic barrel-vaulted room

By: Nicholas Ames, 2012 Platt Fellow

Waking up at 4:00am is difficult no matter where you are in the world. But somehow, waking up in Jordan for the first time made it just a little bit easier.

Breakfast at 4:30am and troweling by 6:00am, it is a schedule regimented by environmental and social concerns of labouring outdoors in a culturally foreign country – which is exactly what field archaeology is. Despite this early schedule, my overall experience excavating with the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project (DEDP) left me craving for much more – more time spent in the field as well as need for a much greater understanding of the regional and methodological history of archaeology and excavation in the Near East. Continue reading

Archaeology and Community: Experiences in the Azraq Oasis

Figure 1

By: Alison Damick, Columbia University, and Ahmad Lash, The Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Azraq, an oasis village in the northeastern Jordanian steppe, sits on the crossroads of the highways connecting Jordan to Saudi Arabia and Iraq [Fig 1]. Its remarkable archaeological record reflects millennia of human activity; the first recorded human occupation in the Azraq Basin dates to more than 300,000 years ago. Including prehistoric, Roman, Byzantine, and early and middle Islamic sites, the 13,000 km² basin area currently hosts a total of 157 documented archaeological sites. A great concern of recent years has been how to effectively protect those sites from the various threats they face, including environmental degradation and erosion, increased vehicle traffic, construction projects and looting. Co-emergent with this concern is the increasing interest among archaeologists in the close relationship between the contemporary world of which archaeological practice is a part and the narrative of the past that is produced from its activities. In 2008, the Azraq Community Archaeology Program (ACAP) was initiated to address these issues. We’d like to use this brief presentation of our experiences with the project to raise some of the issues we’ve encountered in practice and in theory, as launching pads for further discussion. Continue reading

Looking for Size 20 Sandals at Gath

By: Nate Ramsayer, 2012 Heritage Fellow

As a graduate student of Hebrew Bible, my focus has been steeped in literary studies and ancient languages; it is only this past year that I had the opportunity to formally study archaeology. I’ve found myself enchanted by various aspects of material culture study, yet simultaneously frustrated with so many questions of the ins and outs of the excavation process. Finally I said “NO MORE!” and took up the spade in an attempt to supplement my studies with firsthand knowledge of archaeology and its domain. I chose to dig this summer at Tell es-Safi, and thanks in part to ASOR’s Heritage Fellowship, my dream turned into a reality! Continue reading

WikiLoot, crowdsourcing against the illicit antiquities trade

felch-photo2

Jason Felch, a Los Angeles Times investigative reporter and co-author of Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum—a look into the Getty’s involvement in the illegal antiquities trade—agreed to answer a few questions for us about his latest project, WikiLoot.

Can you sum up what WikiLoot is?

WikiLoot is a web platform for collaborative research of the global trade in looted antiquities. We’ll be posting primary- and secondary-source documents about the trade - photographs, business records, court documents, press accounts — and crowdsourcing the tagging, linking, translation and analysis of those records. The result will be an authoritative public database that yields new insights into the size and scope of the trade and helps raise awareness about the consequences of looting. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup

  Fire swept through the old central souk, or marketplace, of Aleppo, Syria, damaging a vast and well-preserved labyrinth of medieval storehouses, shops, schools and ornate courtyards as fierce clashes between security forces and insurgents vowing to carry out a “decisive battle” for the city continued.

An Austrian museum says skeletal remains found in an ancient, Bronze Age grave are that of a woman metal worker — the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago.

The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes, including one that was found on the foot of a mummy, suggest that they’re likely to be the world’s first prosthetic body parts. Continue reading

Biblical Studies Student Experiences Archaeology at Khirbet Qeiyafa

By: Monica Rey, 2012 Heritage Fellow

This summer the ASOR 2012 Heritage Fellowship gave me the exciting opportunity of spending a few weeks entrenched in the work of my academic “neighbors” in the field of archaeology. As a biblical studies student, Carol Meyers, Ann E. Killebrew, and other scholars have impacted me in their ability to deliberately “bridge” the gap between Bible an archaeology in their work. Consequently, I am able to walk away from this archaeological excavation with a much richer and fuller perspective on the engagement of these disciplines (Bible and archaeology) now from an experiential perspective. Continue reading

Protecting, Preserving, and Presenting Cultural Heritage in Petra: The Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative

treasury, petra, tweissi

Figure 1: Petra’s most famous icon, the Al-Khazne (‘the Treasury’) tomb façade with tourist camel riders (Q. Tweissi).

By: Christopher A. Tuttle

Two hundred years ago, on 22 August 1812, the ancient city of Petra was re-identified by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the first European on record to have visited the site since the 13thcentury. Word of his discovery quickly spread and other visitors soon followed in his footsteps—inaugurating a bicentennial of exploration and research at this amazing site located in what is today southern Jordan.

Petra served as the capitol city for the kingdom of Nabataea from at least the second century BCE until Trajan’s annexation of the region into the Roman Empire in 106 CE. Under Roman rule, the city retained its importance and became the administrative center for the new province of Arabia Petraea. Although heavily damaged by a major earthquake in May 363 CE, the city continued to play a significant role in the region during the Byzantine period when it served as an episcopal see of the Christian church. Continue reading