LMU begins cultural heritage project in Iraq and Uzbekistan

7 Jul 2021

With the aid of three international foundations, LMU archaeologist Adelheid Otto and collaborators will survey archaeological sites in Iraq and Uzbekistan that are threatened by housing projects, dam construction and illegal excavations.

View of the ancient site Tell Ruba'yat Al-Torra in the Delmej reservoir, Al-Qadisiyah province, Iraq | © Projekt QADIS

The Institute of Near Eastern Archaeology at LMU will soon embark on a new project, which is designed to develop a strategy for the protection of cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Uzbekistan. Among those that are particularly at risk is the ancient Assyrian city of Niniveh, which is now part of modern Mosul.

The archaeological remains of Niniveh suffered immense damage during the occupation of the area by Islamic State (IS) – and “owing to ongoing building measures, the destruction continues,” says Prof. Adelheid Otto.

“In 615 BCE, Niniveh was the largest city in the world, with a population of around 150,000. It is one of the most significant cultural heritage sites in the world, and it is disappearing before our eyes.”

An international program aimed at conserving cultural heritage

In the course of the new project, Professor Otto will document heritage sites in both Iraq and Uzbekistan, and develop practicable ideas for their preservation. Conservation will require the active participation of local population, and one way to make them more aware of the cultural importance of their archaeological heritage is to develop appropriate apps. In this part of the project, Otto can call on the combined expertise of Prof. Nicolò Marchetti (University of Bologna) and her local project partners Prof. Khalid Salim Ismael (University of Mosul, Iraq) and Dr. Farhod Maksudov (Uzbek Academy of Sciences, Tashkent, Uzbekistan).

Adelheid Otto has been working at archaeological sites in the Near East for many years. One of her current projects is devoted to Fara (Iraq), which was an important town in the third millennium BCE, and was traditionally reputed to be where Noah built the fabled Ark. “All that is left is a mound, massivey destroyed by illegal excavations since the last Gulf war. However, under the hill lies one of the most important settlements of that era. In the absence of sustained and effective protection, this location, like most of the other heritage sites, is acutely threatened.”

The project “KALAM: Analysis, protection and development of archaeological landscapes in Iraq and Uzbekistan through ICTs and community-based approaches” is funded by “Global Challenges - Integrating Diverse Perspectives on Heritage and Change”, an international initiative that involves the Volkswagen Foundation, the Compagnia di San Paolo in Italy and the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond in Sweden. The “Global Challenges” program encompasses a total of eight international projects that will together receive a total of 11 million euros in funding.

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