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AUIS and Iraq's Board of Antiquities Announce Partnership to Document Heritage Affected by Makhool Dam Construction

  American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of the Republic of Iraq announced in a signing ceremony today the start of a five-year partnership to document heritage affected by the construction of the Makhool Dam in Kirkuk and Salahaddin governorates.    AUIS’s Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE), led by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, will be tasked with documenting, preserving, protecting, and restoring cultural heritage found at the dam sites, in cooperation with Iraqi public authorities. The SBAH will assist in the organization and completion of field surveys to document threatened heritage.    “The Makhool Dam poses a significant threat to Iraq’s cultural heritage,” said Dr. Hartnell. “CACHE, AUIS, and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage are committed to responding to this threat, and after the initial phase, we will coordinate a series of interventions to preserve the historical memory of Iraq for future generations.”   The first phase of the project will rely on cutting-edge technology including use of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced 3D visualization to identify and document heritage affected by the dam, as well as damage inflicted by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through looting and destruction, with the ultimate goal of creating a virtual museum of the heritage sites that are submerged.  

AUIS partners with conservation groups to save the Tabira Gate at Iraq’s Ashur World Heritage Site

  The Tabira Gate is as an iconic monument from the World Heritage site of Ashur that was badly damaged by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks on Iraq’s culture. ISIL attempted to destroy the ancient gate with an explosion in May 2015, resulting in 70 percent damage to the monument. In the subsequent years, rain has penetrated the monument’s core and accelerated its decay. In particular, the support pillars of the Outer Arch are badly damaged, such that the arch may collapse.    Faced with this emergency situation, the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH) and the Center of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) are undertaking a new joint initiative to prevent the collapse of the Tabira Gate at the World Heritage site of Ashur. ALIPH is one of the pre-eminent organizations in the world for the protection of cultural heritage in conflict situations, whilst CACHE is an Iraq-based research center that aims to promote cultural heritage as a means for peaceful reconciliation amongst Iraq’s diverse communities.   Thanks to the support of ALIPH, the team from CACHE is on the ground working with the local Iraqi affiliate of Bashtabia Organization for the Arts – a cultural heritage NGO based in the Netherlands – to strengthen the support pillars of the Tabira Gate’s arch. The project team has already cleared a significant amount of rubble from the explosion and prepared thousands of sun-dried mud bricks (libn) that will be used to strengthen the core of the pillars. The production of baked bricks (ajil) in Assyrian style using traditional kilns is expected to start next week. These bricks will form a protective façade to prevent rain entering into the core of the monument. The stabilization of the Tabira Gate thus represents the first stage in the complete rehabilitation of the site after ISIL’s destructive activities.    The project also aims to provide badly needed jobs and job training to the local people of Shirqat who are suffering from high unemployment and poverty rates after the war against ISIL. All stages of the project will be supervised by the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), a part of the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. Every member of the reconstruction team must comply with COVID-19 precautions on site, including wearing gloves, masks, respecting social distancing whenever possible, and undergoing daily temperature checks.  

CACHE receives Direct Aid Program (DAP) Funding from Australian Embassy in Baghdad for research on Ashur heritage site Ashur

  The Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani announced February 3, 2019 that it received a $6,500 AUD ($5,500 USD) grant to conduct research at the Ashur World Heritage site in central Iraq from the Direct Aid Program (DAP) fund of the Embassy of Australia in Baghdad.    In 2018, Dr. Tobin Hartnell, Director of CACHE, received permission from Dr. Qaiss Rashid, the Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), to conduct a surface survey and ceramic collections at the World Heritage Site of Ashur. The site and its environs was attacked by the so-called Islamic State in May 2015, and are believed to be contaminated with Explosive Hazards (EHs) and Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs).   In February, the Australian Embassy provided a small grant to CACHE to fund its first season of work at the site. The first season will collect aerial photography in order to assess any recent damage or looting, and conduct an up-to-date on-the-ground assessment of the various monuments at the site. An report on the initial findings is to be released in the coming months.     CACHE would like to thank the Australian Embassy of Iraq for supporting this project.
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