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Monday, May 16 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(General Session: Get Ready, Get Set - Emergency Preparedness) Cultural Heritage During Armed Conflict and Planning for the Future in Syria and Iraq: The ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives

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The armed conflict that began in Syria in 2011 has produced a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. In 2014 the regional nature of the situation escalated, beginning with the take-over of Mosul, Iraq by ISIL, followed by their subsequent gains in territory. In Syria alone, combat has reached every region with nearly a third of the population internally displaced and more than four million having left the country as refugees. War-wearied Syrians and Iraqis struggle with a loss of identity and lack of control over their lives, and these feelings are compounded by the destruction of their cultural heritage. Thousands of cultural properties have been damaged through combat-related incidents, theft, and intentional destruction. This paper examines the impact of the conflict on the protection of cultural property by discussing the activities and outcomes of the Cultural Heritage Initiatives (CHI) project, a cooperative agreement between the US Department of State and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). In addition to the Syrian Ministry of Culture’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, many local and international groups have been engaged in efforts to safeguard cultural heritage in the region. By 2013, following the first few years of the war in Syria, UNESCO placed all six of the country’s World Heritage Sites on their List of World Heritage in Danger due to severe and sustained damage and threats. Soon after, international responses to the cultural heritage crisis increased rapidly, including the formation of the ASOR CHI project in August 2014. The CHI project aims to develop comprehensive documentation for the current condition and preservation needs of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq. CHI activities include gathering and archiving information about the condition of cultural heritage from online media, satellite imagery, and in-country sources. Working collaboratively with other groups and agencies, CHI has compiled lists of heritage resources to create an inventory and map of archaeological sites, religious and secular historic sites and monuments, museums, archives, and libraries in both countries. This information is used to complete remote condition assessments to help better understand patterns of damage and preservation needs. These assessments will be critical for prioritizing on-the-ground conservation activities in the initial post-conflict recovery period. Constant monitoring of the crisis allows CHI to identify potential emergency response measures that can prevent and decrease future damage to sites and collections. When possible, the project supplies Syrians with resources and technical advice to carry out these mitigation projects. In addition to these short-term actions, CHI develops rapid assessment tools, large-scale preservation projects for major heritage sites, and capacity building activities for future post-war implementation. Overall, through a wide range of activities, CHI documents the impact of the war on cultural heritage and plans preservation actions for the future. This discussion of the CHI project illustrates the challenges of protecting cultural heritage during armed conflict and considers responses that engage local stakeholders. Ultimately CHI seeks to develop best practices for cultural property protection.

avatar for Allison Cuneo

Allison Cuneo

Project Manager, Cultural Heritage Initiatives, American Schools of Oriental Research
Project Manager for ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives, she is responsible for managing and providing logistical and research support for the Syrian Heritage Initiative. Ms. Cuneo is a doctoral candidate in Archaeology at Boston University who conducts research in Iraq. Her MA in... Read More →

avatar for LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

Assistant Conservator, Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
LeeAnn is currently an objects conservator at the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and is also a Consultant for ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives. She earned her graduate degree from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, and has... Read More →

Michael Danti

Academic Director
Dr. Michael D. Danti, FSA (PHD, University of Pennsylvania 2000) has 25 years experience directing archaeological projects in the Middle East, including excavations and surveys in Syria, Iran, and Iraqi Kurdistan. From 1991–2010, his research focused on the Early Bronze Age site... Read More →

Susan Penacho

Project Manager of Geospatial Imaging

Monday May 16, 2016 5:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Room 710 A