UCLA Transdisciplinary Seed Grant Forum (TSGF)

The Modern Face of an Ancient City

Sustainable economic development
of a Mesopotamian archaeological site

Final Report on the second phase of the project
February 14, 2013
Giorgio Buccellati, Principal Investigator

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Introduction
Site preservation
Economic development
Presentations during 2012-13
Publications
Young scholars and students working on project
Additional funding
Plans for 2014-15

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Introduction

     The initial transdisciplinary idea behind our project was to explore the relationship between archaeology and economics, and to propose a specific model: the establishment of an Eco-archaeological Park in Syria.
     Tragic events on the ground, only too well known from the news that reach us daily, might at first suggest that the project had become too chimeric to be pursued. But the opposite turned out to be true.
     Going well beyond the relationship of archaeology to economics, the work made possible by the TSFG grant has shown, dramatically, the relationship of archaeology to war and politics, in ways that were wholly unexpected. As a result, the project has become a model of its kind, and it is being recognized as such on a large international scale. The extensive narrative that is attached (as a separate document) illustrates the wide scope of the work done. It also indicates how fruitful the project was in terms of suggesting new avenues and securing new funding.
     I will give here a more technical summary of the specific accomplishments that the grant has made possible. A financial report will come separately from the Department of Near Languages and Cultures.
     There is a cadre of young individuals, both archaeologists and economists, who are directly involved in our activities. With them I have established a Shared Leadership group, through which the future of the project is assured in terms of capabilities, knowledge and intent. Hence the project is not only continuing, but growing, so that the function of the TSGF program, to serve as a seed for expanded research, is coming to full fruition.
     A preliminary version of the website is available at www.urkesh-park.net. It is for now accessible only for internal use, with ID urkesh and password park. Please refer to it for additional information.
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Site preservation

     1. Mozan/Urkesh is the only site in Syria where a foreign project has been active since the beginning of the civil war.
     2. The site is in perfect conditions, with a team of two guards and four technical assistants working on maintaining it and documenting its conditions.
     3. We have even expanded the degree of protective intervention by improving the system of covers over the mudbrick walls of the site architecture.
     4. We are in constant contact with these six individuals working at the site through the telephone and internet contact, even though this is at times difficult.
     5. We have received a total of over 10,000 photographs during the last three years (the period of our absence from the site). Together with verbal reports, they document the state of the site in ways that are altogether unimaginable for any other site in Syria.
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Economic development

     1. Our request from the local Syrian authorities was that they provide running water and sewer systems to all 24 villages within the Park area. This was started, in spite of the chaos resulting from the war, and in June 2012 the provincial governor brought running water to the main village of Mozan.
     2. For our part, we had proposed that local communities become involved in developing skills that might eventually be used within the touristic dimension of the Park. In ways that are documented in the attached report, a group of women took up the challenge, and wholly on their own were able to organize themselves into a production entity for traditional handicrafts. In turn, we were able to find ways to have these items sent to us. We have at present a small inventory of some 30 items, and are planning for the production and shipment of more.
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Presentations during 2012-13

     1. Three major workshops were offered in Moscow and in Milan
     2. Invited lectures were presented in over 20 different cities. Details are given in the attached document, but of particular significance were the ones in Guatemala City (National Geographic Society), Amman, Jordan (UNESCO), Rome (Ministry of Defense, Italian Government), Erbil, Iraq (Iraqi Institute of Conservation).
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Publications

     1. The Park website (www.urkesh-park.net) remains an in-house resource at the moment. It serves as a repository for information exchange within our working group. We plan to open it, or portions of it, to the public at some point in the near future.
     2. A parallel website devoted to the archaeological project as such includes a unique section on the monitoring of the mudbrick walls of the Palace, an activity which continues and is uniquely well documented even for these recent years of turmoil: www.urkesh.org, under RECORD > AP Palace > Conservation. These recent updates were made possible through the TSGF grant.
     3. A technical volume is in preparation, and a detailed account of its content will be found in www.urkesh-park.net.
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Young scholars and students working on project

     1. Five post-docs are working on project: Caitlin Chaves Yates (Boston University), Laerke Recht (University of Dublin), Stefania Ermidoro (University of Venice), Federico Buccellati (University of Frankfurt), Patrizia Camatta (Free University, Berlin).
     2. Five Syrian doctoral students are working on project: Rasha Elendari (University of Toronto), Hiba Qassar (University of Florence), Ani Eblighatian (University of Geneva), Arwa Kharobi (University of Bordeaux), Ahmad Slivi (Free University, Berlin)
     3. Two Syrian graduate students are working on the project: Samer Abdel Ghafour (University of Rome Tor Vergata), Yasmine Mahmoud (Damascus).
     4. A Master thesis is in progress at the University of Tor Vergata in Rome (the home institution of Prof. Scandizzo, Research Collaborator on the TSGF grant.)
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Additional funding

     1. The project has received substantial support as a result of the seed funding from TSGF. Accordingly, the project has become self-sustaining, and promises to remain so in the foreseeable future, as indicated by the following entries.
     2. A grant was awarded by Gulfsands Petroleum for 2013-14. The funds go for stipends to post-docs and students, and for travel and other research expenses.
     3. Two grants were awarded for 2012-14 by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA for site conservation.
     4. A grant from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA for the workshop in Moscow.
     5. A second Gulfsands grant has obtained initial approval, and we expect an official award by March 2014.
     6. Further applications are outstanding for 2014-15.
     7. Note. Gulfsands Petroleum is based in London, and their grant was awarded to a European entity especially created for the project, called Gulfsands Urkesh Exploration Fund, hence it is administered in Europe (not therefore through UCLA). Some of the additional applications are, however, through UCLA.
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Plans for 2014-15

     1. I list here some of the major activities planned for 2014-15
     2. A major exhibit at a cultural meeting in Rimini, the largest of its kind in the world, with about half a million people in attendance during a one week period (http://www.meetingrimini.org/eng/). The exhibit highlights our project, and will be accompanied by roundtables with the Director General of Antiquities and Museums and other provincial Antiquities directors from Syria, along with Italian archaeologists.
     3. The technical book on the project will be finished by the end of 2014, and will be available in print by early 2015.
     4. We will continue with a rich program of presentations. Two important ones are at the Italian Embassy in Baghdad (scheduled for early July 2014, as a special event organized by the Embassy in conjunction with the beginning of the Italian presidency of the European Union), and a presentation at a large Archaeological Film Festival in Rovereto Italy (September 2014).
     5. We will continue work on the Park Website, and open portions of it to the public.
     6. We will enhance the project of economic development with the local women, something we are now calling the Urkesh Women Atelier.
     7. We will of course continue the major work on conservation and site presentation, which is at the heart of the whole project.
     8. A major grant proposal for the implementation of the Park is substantially ready, and constitutes the core of the volume being prepared for publication. It will be revised and submitted to the proper funding agencies as soon as conditions in Syria allow it.
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