Protecting Archaeological Sites in Conflict Zones: What Is to be Done in Syria?

By: Lawrence Rothfield

The recent upsurge in high profile news stories, in Time and other mass media outlets, about the looting of archaeological sites in Syria has been accompanied by the usual public handwringing by archaeologists and heritage protection organizations. The terrible impact on the world’s cultural patrimony is bewailed, and the heads of UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, and so on call upon the international community to stop the destruction. What is most depressing, for those of us who study the history of cultural heritage protection in times of armed conflict, is how similar these public statements are to those made in the runup to and the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Thousands of looting pits pockmarking Iraq bear witness to how ineffectual those earlier pronouncements were, and yet the archaeological and heritage community continues to issue them.

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The Public Impact

At the Secondary Context I workshop,  Dr. Giorgio Buccellati spoke movingly of his commitment to the people who live in Mozan ( the village for which the tell that covers ancient Urkesh is named). He and his colleagues have collaborated with those who live in Mozan and work the land nearby to create an innovative program that involves both populace and excavators. Small wonder that the site survives intact, a monument to culture, to a people, and to a tradition that endures.
-Rick HAUSER, Research Associate
IIMAS The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

The Public Impact
Giorgio Buccellati
Co-Director
Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project (Tell Mozan, Syria)
March—June 2011

Times of turmoil encourage an intense reflection on the ultimate validity of our field work in foreign lands. Identified as we become with the people, committed as we are to recover their territorial past, engaged as we still remain in the more esoteric dimensions of our research — the question of relevance emerges with urgency. Continue reading

Update on ASOR’s strategic plan

Strategic plan adopted by ASOR board.

It is with great pleasure we announce that on April 24, 2010, the ASOR board of trustees unanimously adopted the “Strategic Plan as a blueprint to move ASOR forward.” A considerable amount of work has been done by the Strategic Planning Task Force that was chaired by ASOR President Tim Harrison. We thank President Harrison and the rest of the committee (Susan Ackerman, Jimmy Hardin, Morag Kersel, Sten LaBianca, P. E. MacAllister, and Carol Meyers) for their efforts and excellent work. To review ASOR’s Strategic Planning documents, please click here.

The Strategic Plan sets forth a blueprint for ASOR to move forward, but it intentionally did not resolve many implementation issues. The next step will be for President Tim Harrison to appoint an “Implementation Task Force” that will be charged with bringing specific recommendations for implementing the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan to the board of trustees. Updates on the progress of this committee will be posted online and in upcoming ASOR Newsletters.

Please contact Tim Harrison with any questions or comments on the Strategic Plan and with recommendations for the implementation stage. This is an exciting time for ASOR and we look forward to collaborating with our members in the years to come.

Posted by ASOR’s executive director: Andrew G. Vaughn