The cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria appears in the news for the grim catalogue of destruction and damage inflicted on it by ISIS and through the wider civil war in Syria. There are positive stories to tell, too, however. The Syrian DGAM is working hard to protect sites and museums in the face of enormous challenges. Iraq’s museums are active, and there are archaeological expeditions across the country.

International associations have been founded to promote heritage protection in the Middle East. Shirin focuses on Syria, while Rashid focuses on Iraq.


Heritage management

In 2016 UNESCO accepted The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities into its list of World Heritage List This includes the ancient cities of Ur, Eridu and Uruk, as well as the famous marshes, which are returning to their former glory. This joins Hatra (1985), Ashur (2003), Samarra Archaeological City (2007) and Erbil Citadel (2014). Several other sites are on the tentative list. More details can be found here.

One such site working towards World Heritage List nomination is Babylon. The site of Babylon remains the focus of a collaborative effort between the World Monuments Fund and SBAH. The Future of Babylon Project is developing a site management plan and conserving priority sites.

Meanwhile the British Museum and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage are collaborating on a project to train SBAH staff to manage damaged sites after their liberation from ISIS. The Italian Conservation and Maintenance Project for the Archaeological Site of Ur are working to protect important parts of the ancient site of Ur.

The Iraq Museum remains active, as do those in Nasiriyah and Suleimaniyah. In September 2016 a new museum opened in Basra, in what was once the palace complex of Saddam Hussein. You can read Director Qahtan al-abeed’s account of the founding of the museum in the February 2017 IAA newsletter. Funding has recently been secured to complete the museum refurbishment.

The University of Leiden is leading efforts to create a digital inventory of the Raqqa collection.

A wide range of archaeological surveys and excavations are taking place in Iraq. Here you can find some links to reports on their activities:

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