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.


Russia says hard to know if Syria’s borders will remain as they are — Ifax

Updated 1 min 3 sec ago
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Russia says hard to know if Syria’s borders will remain as they are — Ifax

Russia says hard to know if Syria’s borders will remain as they are — Ifax
MOSCOW: Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday Russia did not know how the situation in Syria would evolve in terms of the country maintaining its territorial integrity, the Interfax news agency reported.
“We don’t know how the situation is going to develop on the question of whether it is possible to keep Syria as a single country,” the agency quoted Ryabkov as telling Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster. 
The Syria peace was high Friday on the agenda of Kremlin officials, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting in Moscow with United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura that US-led air strikes in Syria had harmed the peace process, the RIA news agency reported.
Shoigu said last weekend’s strikes were carried out at the least opportune moment, RIA reported.