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

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.”
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.

Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

Updated 51 min 39 sec ago

Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

  • Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities

BEIRUT: Banks in Lebanon will reopen on Tuesday after the Association of Banks in Lebanon approved measures to ease the anger of depositors and customers. 

More than 3,000 members of Beirut’s police, the regional gendarmerie, the judicial police, and the information division of the Internal Security Forces will provide protection to banks and their employees, who carried out an open strike for a week.

They did so due to customers’ anger over measures applied by banks on withdrawals and transfers amid Lebanon’s severe political and economic crisis, which sparked mass protests that have been ongoing for 33 days.

Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon decided on Sunday to “stop restrictions on new funds transferred from abroad, provided that remittances abroad only cover urgent personal expenses.”

It also decided to lift restrictions on the circulation of checks, transfers, and the use of credit cards in Lebanon. 

As for the use of credit cards abroad, ceilings are determined by agreements between banks and customers.

The association has determined a maximum cash withdrawal rate of $1,000 per week for holders of current accounts in dollars, while checks issued in foreign currencies will be transferred into their account.

It has also urged customers to “use their credit cards, especially in Lebanese pounds, to buy their needs.”

Meanwhile, protesters are preparing to block roads leading to Parliament in the heart of Beirut on Tuesday, to prevent a legislative session from taking place. The session had already been postponed for a week.

In an attempt to placate protesters, the presidential palace’s media office said the president has ordered investigations into “financial crimes, waste, forgery, money laundering and suspicious transactions,” as well as “negligence at work, promotion of counterfeit medicines and suspicious reconciliation contracts.”