Our Project

We take a multi-pronged approach to cultural heritage protection, which includes:

• The documentation and monitoring of archaeological site damage and risk

• Capacity building and knowledge exchange with Iraqi archaeologists and heritage professionals

• The co-creation of a sustainable framework and engagement programme that will enable heritage professionals to engage key stakeholders in cultural heritage protection

• The co-development of a cultural protection strategy

Documentation and Monitoring of Archaeological Sites

Only when we understand the nature and extent of past damage and current and future threats, can we devise effective strategies of protection and damage control/limitation. A central pillar of this project, is therefore, the monitoring of archaeological sites and other physical cultural heritage for existing damage and current as well as future risks.

Following training in Iraq and Glasgow, the project’s Cultural Heritage Monitoring Officer, Nawzad Latif, has been monitoring archaeological sites and documenting past damage and future risks to archaeological sites in the Garmian region of southern Suleymaniyah using a combination of satellite-based monitoring, aerial photography and on-the-ground site visits.

Nawzad’s work focuses on the Iraqi Kurdish region of Garmian/southern Suleymaniyah, an area of ca. 4000km2 . Archaeological sites in this region are of immense historical significance, offering an untapped source of knowledge regarding key developments in human history: the emergence of sedentary agriculture, the development of the world’s first complex societies, and the cultural interactions that took place between imperial centres in Mesopotamia, Iran, and beyond.

Erosion damage to an archaeological site in the Iraqi Kurdish region of Garmian/southern Suleymaniyah
Site damage from erosion and a recent earthquake

The Sirwan Regional Project (SRP), an archaeological survey and excavation project co-directed by Prof. Claudia Glatz and Prof. Jesse Casana, has been investigating the archaeology of this area since 2013. SRP has identified over 600 archaeological features including settlement mounds, lithic scatters, rock reliefs, hydraulic works and standing structures. Almost all of the sites identified have been subject to varying forms of damage and destruction.

Site damage from looting
Site damage from looting

By now, the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Officer has collected detailed data on c. 400 archaeological sites, which provide an unprecedented, evidence-based understanding of past and current sources of destruction and damage as well as future risks to the region’s cultural heritage.

Capacity Building and Training Workshops

In order to ensure the sustainability of the project’s monitoring and engagement efforts, the project built capacity through a series of training events targeted to local needs.

Iraq Project Staff

This includes the training in Iraq and at Glasgow in 2018 and 2019 of the Iraq-based Cultural Heritage Monitoring and Community Engagement Officers, who subsequently took on training responsibilties as the project progressed, passing on their skills to other colleagues in Suleymaniyah and Kalar.

Our Cultural Heritage Monitoring Officer, Nawzad Latif, being trained in Glasgow
Our Cultural Heritage Monitoring Officer, Nawzad Latif, being trained in Glasgow

Archaeological field-skills

During the ongoing field-seasons of the Sirwan Regional Project, the project provides training in archaeological field practice to Iraqi antiquities officials and archaeologists in archaeological survey, excavation and finds processing skills.

A composite image of people carrying out archaeological excavation and survey in a hot, dry environment
On-site training in archaeological excavation and recording methods at Khani Masi

Interpretation and Narrative Building
A four-day training workshop was held for 44 Iraqi antiquities officials, archaeologists and educators in Suleymaiyah in February 2019, covering the following topics:

• Archaeological interpretation and the political dimensions of the past
• Archaeological and museum narrative building
• Monitoring of archaeological sites and damage documentation
• Looting and the illicit antiquities trade

Travel bursaries were made available for workshop attendees.

Education and Engagement

A third project focus is the creation of educational spaces, teaching materials and engagement activities to widen awareness and public participation in cultural heritage and its protection.

This includes the design of two new museum spaces in Suleyaminah and Kalar in collaboration with local school teachers and education specialists (click here for more information) as well as engagement activities for rural communities.

A building in an arid, environment, with some scrubby plants in the foreground
Rural farmstead near the town of Kalar

Cultural Protection Strategy and Sustainability

The data on site damage and risk gathered during this project, the results and lessons learnt in the course of the project’ engagement activities, and best-practice co-developed with local antiquities officials during workshop activities have fed into a Strategic Framework for Cultural Heritage (2020-2023). The Framework includes recommendations to protect and safeguard, to make more accessible, and to responsibly develop the social and economic potential of the region’s cultural heritage.