by Laurie W. Rush, Ph.D., RPA, FAAR. Published by Predella – September, 2013 – The United States Department of Defense has had an archaeology stewardship program for over 20 years with professional archaeologists identifying and protecting archaeological sites on the military bases where they work. When news that the presence of US military forces had resulted in damage at Babylon traveled around the world, many archaeologists who work for the military realized that there was a tremendous need to educate military personnel about the archaeology and cultural property of countries not only where they may engage in conflict, but also in areas of disaster response, and even in cases of military construction and participation in humanitarian aid projects. As a result, beginning with the archaeology staff at Fort Drum, New York, who also work in support of the US Army’s Tenth Mountain Division, the United States Department of Defense began a program to work on teaching US military personnel about cultural property protection. The team found that for military initiatives to be successful, there had to be three components; educating soldiers, making sure that military planners knew the locations of important property, such as archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and holy places, and that there would be laws and military rules to be followed as a requirement for protecting cultural property….. Read more→
Syrian Heritage Under Extreme Attack
by Omar Almuqdad Global Arab Network. Since its beginnings in 2011, armed conflict in Syria has escalated dramatically with major human loss, hundreds of thousands of refugees, and extensive damage to infrastructure and properties. Cultural heritage in all its forms has suffered from the direct and indirect effects of this ongoing conflict. Syria’s World Heritage sites together with numerous cultural properties of national and local significance are at serious risk.
In addition to the Syrian civil war’s horrible human and economic costs, the conflict has also devastated Syria’s cultural heritage. At a February UNESCO conference, the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) called the looting “more damaging” than the fighting that is ravaging mosques, old houses, and Crusader castles.
Only 3 per cent of Syria’s heritage sites remain outside areas of conflict, according to a map released by the United States State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit. A 2012 Global Heritage Fund report also makes for grim reading: All UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria have been affected by the war, from the old cities of Aleppo and Damascus to the Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers to the Roman city of Bosra.
One theft acknowledged by the Syrian authorities to have taken place involved a golden statue of an Aramaic God from the 8th century BC. The statue was considered one of Syria’s most important symbols. A picture of the statue was put on the Stolen Works of Art Red List published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), while Interpol and the World Customs Organization were also notified. Despite the fact that the statue has been on Interpol’s most wanted list since last December, it has yet to be recovered.
The Syrian authorities have also reported thefts in the museums of Deir al-Zor, Maarat al-Naman, al-Raqqa and Qalaat Jaabar, and journalists have confirmed that the museums of Homs and Hama were looted months ago. Here, pundits agree that one major drawback is the lack of adequate documentation in place in museum warehouses. With the absence of serial numbers and photographs that confirm items belong to a museum, many artifacts disappear into the market, and there is no real possibility of recovery.
Last year, shelling damaged the walls of the Crac des Chevalier – a magnificent crusader-era castle overlooking the Jebel Libnan ash-Sharqiya (Anti-Lebanon Range) – that Lawrence of Arabia described simply as “the finest castle in the world”.
Museums have also been targeted. In the Maarat al-Numan Museum in Northern Syria that once housed the largest collection of mosaics in the Middle East, everything moveable has been stolen. Of what remains, the destruction from ongoing air raids is heart breaking.
When I asked one of the smuggler who call himself “Abu Moazz” in turkey : who brings these items from Syria, he said it is not the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group in Syria, but rather individuals or small gangs often claiming to be fighters who secure the items and smuggle them across the river into Turkey.
Life’s been taken away, buildings been destroyed, million and half people became refugees, and history for sale. Welcome to the new devastated Syria. Text © copyright 2013 Omar Almuqdad. All rights reserved.
Overcoming the Divide
As the much-anticipated Seventh World Archaeological Congress draws near, interest within the archaeological community is building for the four-session series, titled “Archaeology as a Target”. The series begins on January 14 with a forum entitled “The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Civil-Military Cooperation: Lessons Learned from a Civil Perspective,” organized by Friedrich T. Schipper (University of Vienna) and Patty Gerstenblith (DePaul University College of Law).
As the abstract indicates, the forum will “[follow] up on the heated debates on archaeology and war at the WAC-6 Conference and the experiences in the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and civil-military cooperation since then (e.g. the WAC Inter-congresses in Ramallah and Vienna). The conversation renewed in this forum … is intended to overcome the divide in the scientific community and create an accepted basis of constructive debate as well as to deal with the lessons learned from a civil perspective and to strive to develop future perspectives.”
CCHAG hopes this January 14 forum will consider the many initiatives and positive outcomes created by Dr. Laurie W. Rush (Fort Drum, NY) and Dr. James Zeidler (CEMML, Colorado State University), who together founded the COCOM Cultural Heritage Action Group (CCHAG).
Few question that Cultural Property Protection (CPP) is a critical aspect of modern warfare. Post disaster, cultural property can serve as one of the foundations for a recovering community. For this reason, it is essential for troops to receive some CCP training prior to deployment as well as CPP reach back support while operating in theater to respect and prevent inadvertent damage to museums, works of art, archaeological sites, sacred places and other forms of cultural property that recovering communities need. CCHAG provides that CCP curriculum, training and reach back support. In addition, future military leaders need CCP training in university-based ROTC programs, including CPP presentations given to ROTC cadets and midshipmen by subject matter experts. CCHAG has launched a new initiative, discussed at the recent AIA Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA, to make that happen.
Military planners must have the right information, which CCHAG and its many partners provide, so that planners can take cultural property into consideration as they prepare ‘no-strike’ lists and operational plans. If archaeologists did not participate in these projects, well-meaning but uninformed military commanders, planners and troops could commit the same mistakes in future operations as were made in the past—with devastating consequences. CCHAG’s experience working with DoD tells us that everyone wants to do the right thing. All they need is support: the right information and data, delivered to the right person, at the right time.
Military leaders need proper training and resources in order to observe the requirements of the 1954 Hague Convention and implement practical military guidelines and regulations to prevent damage whenever military personnel encounter cultural property in unfamiliar lands.
Like it or not, future generations may depend on military personnel to preserve and protect archaeological sites and other forms of cultural property in conflict situations that can occur when we least expect it … anywhere in the world.
To reduce the potential for damage and meet the myriad challenges and legal obligations posed by military forces that operate in heritage-rich nations or regions, archaeologists, art historians, cultural property and military attorneys and other subject matter experts should feel a duty to cooperate in a responsible way with defense ministries in their home countries, everywhere in the world.
The need for expert military advisors in the cultural property realm is great. Even though more than 120 nations have agreed to abide by the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which requires state parties to educate their military personnel and fulfill other related requirements, very few state parties have established a formal program that enable them to comply with the treaty.
The first step in establishing such a program often begins at home. As rhe UNESCO Cultural Property Law Database shows, most nations have laws in place that protect their cultural property, and such properties often exist on military lands or are subject to military oversight.
In the US and the UK, cultural resource management programs have existed on domestic military bases for decades. At these bases, highly qualified archaeologists, historic architects and preservation professionals manage vast acreages of military lands and inventories of historic structures.
In the US, for example, archaeologists are responsible for keeping military installations in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which requires the maintenance of an inventory of cultural property (as required by Section 110) and the opportunity for stakeholder consultation (required by Section 106) before undertaking ground-disturbing activities that may risk damaging or destroying an archaeological or historic site. In this respect, military land is managed to the same standard as all US federally owned land, including the National Parks. As a result, millions of acres of military land in the US have been surveyed, and tens of thousands of archaeological sites have been listed in the DoD inventory, with thousands of them designated for permanent protection. Without cooperation between DoD and trained archaeologists and related professionals, this important work could not have been accomplished.
Sections 110 and 106 of the NHPA requires the DoD to invest millions of dollars annually in archaeological survey, site evaluation and stakeholder consultation. Considering the scale of these activities, hundreds of archaeologists currently serve as civilian employees, as defense contractors, as university recipients of military funds, as field technicians, as research fellows or field school participants.
In addition, the DoD established a pro-active Native American consultation policy in 1999 that encourages partnerships between Native American nations and installation management personnel to insure that solutions are reached — working as colleagues, not as adversaries — whenever issues related to ancestral remains arise.
In a comparable program, the UK Ministry of Defence has carefully inventoried its training areas and has a robust site protection program in place with three fulltime archaeologists and heritage professionals working for the Ministry. It’s no surprise that Stonehenge, which is adjacent to the Salisbury Defence Estate, is one of the best-preserved archaeological properties in all of the UK, if not the world. Likewise, in Italy, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Property works together with the archaeological superintendencies and with the Italian military to insure protection of archaeological sites on Italian military land. Along the Appia Antica at the edge of Rome, the tumuli are protected because they are situated inside of the protected Italian Air Force perimeter. It is common to find archaeological properties of immense global value within restricted military lands around the world. Yet beyond the US, the UK and the EU, proactive programs for identifying and protecting these properties are all too rare. Such programs are sorely needed. But will they happen without archeologists who are willing to work with the military?
Finally, consider the needs of military personnel assigned to disaster response. Recovering objects from the ruins of a collapsed museum after an earthquake or other calamity is a completely different process from managing rubble from other types of structures. To manage these situations properly, military responders must know what types of cultural property they are going to be encountering, and much of that information must come from archaeologists and related professionals.
During WAC-6 in 2008, dissension surrounding the invasion of Iraq and fears of future conflict with Iran caused some colleagues to argue from an ethical point of view against working with the military in any way.
WAC President Claire Smith summarized the controversy in a media release: “The view here is that providing advice and expertise to the military during the war planning against Iran would offer cultural credibility and respectability to the military action. . . . Other members take the opposite stance that it is their responsibility as cultural heritage specialists to attempt to mitigate the damage done to cultural heritage wherever there is conflict as this cultural heritage could be an essential building block in the peace process.”
The fact is: without archaeologists and related professionals in place, working with the military on NHPA compliance and other projects, DoD would not have had the internal expertise to respond after news of the mis-steps by US forces at Babylon and other sites in Iraq were first reported by the media.
Soon after the news from Babylon emerged, archaeologists who had been working with the DoD stewardship program took the lead and applied their knowledge and experience to address US forces’ lack of training and expertise, which is needed when encountering the archaeological challenges of ancient Mesopotamia. A group of installation cultural resource managers, with financial support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Legacy Resources Management Program, initiated the ‘In Theater Heritage Training Program for Deploying Personnel’ to address three critical needs: education and awareness training; mapping and planning; and establishing stronger military regulations and guidelines for cultural property protection going forward. A fourth initiative was later added: research designed to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the strategic and tactical costs of failure (and the consequent benefits of accomplishing) cultural property protection during global operations.
Organizing these initiatives required an identifiable group. First called the Central Command Historical Cultural Advisory Group (CCHCAG), this group included representatives of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the installation cultural resources community, Combat Command environmental engineers, Air Combat Command cultural resources and US Army Central Command geospatial support. The group has since evolved into the Combatant Command (or COCOM) Cultural Heritage Action Group (CCHAG) which partners with the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCuRWG).
A necessary component of CCHAG’s success to date has been the partnership between:
- academic archaeologists (especially those whose work has been in conflict areas) and professional societies such as AIA and SAA;
- civilian defense employees (including military archaeologists and cultural resources managers) who are responsible for compliance with environmental regulations and military law; and
- uniformed military personnel, including members of JAG Corps, who recognize the importance of cultural property protection.
The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) under the leadership of then President C. Brian Rose played a pivotal role as the first academic organization, composed primarily of social scientists, that came forward to assist the military during the Iraq conflict. Dr. Rose personally initiated a soldier lecture program to introduce deploying personnel to the history, heritage and archaeology of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drs. Roger Ulrich at Dartmouth College, Sam Paley at SUNY Buffalo, and Sarah Parcak at the University of Alabama Birmingham also stepped forward to work directly with the military archaeologists, providing expertise for education and mapping projects. This cooperation helped to bridge the institutional divide that had existed between defense professionals, who tend to specialize in the archaeology of the Americas, and their colleagues at AIA, whose background in the classical world and the ancient Near East was needed when working on problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many successful outcomes have resulted from these partnerships. Examples include:
- education and training initiatives for troops operating in-theater, such as the archaeology awareness playing cards for military personnel;
- site hardening and creation of replicas for training purposes (to provide deploying soldiers with the opportunity to practice avoidance of inadvertent collateral damage and proportionate response when enemies attempt to use cultural property as cover, weapons caches and firing points);
- on-site CPP training (sessions at SOUTHCOM headquarters and at Maxwell AFB have occurred in recent months);
- creation of a 70-page CPP guidebook for field commanders (“The Cultural Minefield: A Manual on Cultural Property Protection for the Operator Forward”), which will soon be available to all deploying personnel;
- cultural property protection scenarios incorporated into military exercises (included in the planning sessions at the Bright Star Exercise in Egypt and executive seminars at the Eagle Resolve Exercise in Abu Dhabi and Qatar);
- mapping and other information suitable for creation of “no strike” lists [a partnership between US and UK academic archaeologists and the US Defense Intelligence Agency created a ‘no-strike’ list prior to the aerial campaign in Libya; in more than 17,000 sorties, the only damage to cultural property from aerial bombardment in Libya was secondary minor damage to one castle façade; in one notable example, a radar installation that Gaddafi forces deliberately installed (in violation of Hague ’54) near the Roman fortification at Rasaimergib, near Leptis Magna, was destroyed by precision bombing, yet the ancient fortification remained untouched];
- policy research and recommendations, which led to the inclusion of CPP in CENTCOM Regulation 200-2 for all contingency operations within the Command. This regulation, which features an engineering flow chart for use by military personnel who encounter archaeological material in the field, was used in 2008 to save an archaeological site east of Baghdad that was threatened by excavations to gather fill material. In a similar situation, intervention from archaeologists stopped a construction project at the famed Bala Hissar fortress in Kabul when previously unknown archeological material was found; expansion of the Afghan Defense Intelligence Headquarters, originally planned at Bala Hissar, occurred elsewhere; and
- high-level meetings with host nation cultural ministers (including a briefing on the importance of Afghan heritage delivered to US military by the Director General of Heritage of Afghanistan and a US Army archaeologist in Kabul.
Archaeology/military partnerships have benefitted the profession and provided opportunities for archaeological discovery as much or more than they benefited the military. Supporting the military in stewardship, training, planning and research — from averting damage to important sites in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, to training and equipping troops and military to keep CPP in mind during planning and operations — have taken archaeologists in directions few dreamed of when they chose to enter the field.
CCHAG hopes the discussants who attend “The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and Civil-Military Cooperation: Lessons Learned from a Civil Perspective,” at WAC-7 on January 14th will agree that maintaining and expanding responsible and ethical partnerships between the military and archaeologists and related professionals is the right and responsible thing to do.