British Museum trains Iraqi archaeologists to rebuild post-Daesh

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Photos shows destruction caused by the Daesh group at the archaeological site of Nimrud, some 30 kilometers south of Mosul in the Nineveh province, a few days after Iraqi forces retook the ancient city from Daesh jihadists. (AFP)
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Updated 20 February 2017
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British Museum trains Iraqi archaeologists to rebuild post-Daesh

LONDON: Standing in front of two ancient Assyrian statues, eight Iraqi archaeologists discuss not only the homes some have fled, but also how to avoid explosives when they finally go back to work.
They’re in London as part of a British Museum scheme aimed at equipping Iraq with the digital and excavation skills necessary to salvage artifacts and rebuild ancient sites Daesh fighters have attempted to destroy.
Jonathan Tubb, head of the British Museum’s Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the project began as an attempt to do something positive when nothing was possible on the ground.
“We could actually prepare people... for the day when these sites would be released again, liberated, and ensure that those people have all the necessary skills and tools to cope with the most appalling destruction,” he said.
The archaeologists each undergo three months of theoretical training at the British Museum and three more months of practical work at sites at Tello and Darband-i Rania in Iraq.
Zaid Sadallah, an archaeologist from Mosul in northern Iraq, fled his home when Daesh fighters captured the city in 2014. An employee of the Mosul Museum, he headed with his family to nearby city Erbil.
In February 2015, he watched in horror as Daesh videos were posted online showing men attacking the artifacts in the museum — some antiquities from the 7th century BC — using sledgehammers and drills.
“We have destruction all over the city. They killed more people and damaged more antiquities,” said Sadallah, in London for training. “(Now) we want to rebuild the city, remake Mosul.”
DIGITAL TECHNIQUES
The archaeologists are being taught to spot booby traps while excavating, as well as learning digital techniques like geophysical surveys, remote sensing, and how to use a multi-station — equipment that helps with mapping and measurements.
So far, Tubb said evaluations had started only in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, a 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris River which Daesh fighters bulldozed and looted in early 2015.
The site was recaptured in November 2016, shortly after the on-going offensive to retake Mosul began. Local archaeologists who returned found shattered stone carvings littered across the ground and bombs planted in the road leading to the site.
“We’re constantly in touch with them now... That process of assessment is now in hand and they’re discovering all the horrors,” Tubb said.
As each new site is recaptured by the Iraqi army, Tubb said the first step should be to photograph everything that’s left behind. “Look at every fragment you can find. Record it and number it before you take it away,” he said.
“What we’re hoping is that all the bits are there.”
The importance of rebuilding these sites in the cradle of Mesopotamian civilization cannot be overestimated, Tubb said.
“People in Iraq identify so much with their ancient past that if you obliterate that and try to eradicate it then you’re effectively wiping out their identity,” he said.
The training scheme is funded by the British government, which is giving 2.9 million pounds ($3.62 million) over five years.


UN pushes for truce and aid at Yemen talks

Updated 12 December 2018
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UN pushes for truce and aid at Yemen talks

  • Askar Zaeel, a member of the government delegation, said his camp would hold firm to UN Security Council Resolution 2216
  • Multiple draft proposals have been submitted to the two delegations over the past week

RIMBO, Sweden: With 24 hours left before the scheduled close of UN-brokered talks on Yemen, mediators pushed Wednesday for a truce between warring parties as a crucial step to allow aid deliveries.
Mediators are seeking a de-escalation of violence in two flashpoint cities: Houthi-held Hodeidah, a port city vital to the supply of humanitarian aid, and Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, scene of some of the war’s most intense fighting.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was due in Rimbo late Wednesday for Thursday’s closing round of consultations.
Both government and militia representatives traded accusations of unwillingness to negotiate, particularly on militia-held Hodeida, the main route for 90 percent of food imports and nearly 80 percent of aid deliveries.
Multiple draft proposals have been submitted to the two delegations over the past week. None have found consensus as yet.
“I think there is some progress, even if it’s with much difficulty. It’s slow progress,” Houthi representative Abdelmalik Al-Ajri told AFP. “We are faced with the intransigence of the other side.
“Things should become clearer today.”
Askar Zaeel, a member of the government delegation, said his camp would hold firm to UN Security Council Resolution 2216 — which calls for the Houthis to withdraw from all areas seized in a 2014 takeover, including Hodeidah.
Iran supports the militia politically but denies supplying them with arms.