ISIS and Cultural Cleansing: Saving the Ancient and Medieval Treasures of Syria and Iraq

danti-image-dgc_0019-copyHumanities Forum – MEMS Colloquium Lecture
“ISIS and Cultural Cleansing: Saving the Ancient and Medieval Treasures of Syria and Iraq”

Michael D. Danti, Assistant Professor of Archaeology, Boston University; Consulting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Museum; and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Tuesday, March 7, 4 p.m.
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery

Syria and Iraq are facing the worst cultural heritage crisis since the Second World War. The American Schools of Oriental Research Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR CHI) work with Syrians and Iraqis to safeguard cultural sites and objects from neglect, damage, destruction, and theft as part of a program developed with the U.S. Department of State. This talk will address one of ASOR’s greatest challenges: the cultural cleansing perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State or ISIS. Among the many atrocities perpetrated by ISIS is the deliberate destructions of historic mosques, churches, schools, monasteries, and cemeteries, as well as numerous famous monuments at archaeological sites such as Palmyra, Nimrud, Nineveh, Hatra, and the Old City of Mosul. ISIS brazenly commits these war crimes to advance its radical ideology and gain global media exposure. At the same time, the organization funds its terrorist activities through the looting of cultural property from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, and private collections. Irreplaceable ancient and medieval heritage, embedded in the urban fabric and daily life of modern communities, is endangered as extremists erase cultural memory, manipulate cultural identity, and eliminate cultural diversity.

Michael D. Danti is an archaeologist who specializes in the ancient Near East. His interests center on the emergence of complex societies, agropastoral economies, tribe-state relations and pastoral nomadic societies. He directs archaeological projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria, focusing on the Bronze and Iron Ages. From 1991 to 2010, Dr. Danti’s research focused on the Early Bronze Age site of Tell es-Sweyhat near Raqqa and Aleppo on the Euphrates River. He is a principal investigator for the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR CHI). ASOR is an international, collaborative effort to respond to the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and northern Iraq. Groups of concerned citizens in Syria and Iraq have been taking action, and ASOR’s international team has formed alliances and partnerships with these groups.

Admission is free.

Directions and parking information
UMBC is located about 10 minutes south of the Inner Harbor along I-95. For this event, paid visitor parking is available in the Walker Avenue Garage adjacent to the Library — please see here for additional information. The Library Gallery is located on the first floor of the Library, situated on the left immediately past the lobby.

Sponsored by the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, the Department of Ancient Studies, the Department of Visual Arts, and the Department of Political Science.

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