British Museum training experts to save Mosul heritage

2017-02-20 21:00
The destruction caused by the Islamic State group at the archaeological site of Nimrud, about 30km south of Mosul. (File, AFP)

The destruction caused by the Islamic State group at the archaeological site of Nimrud, about 30km south of Mosul. (File, AFP)

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London - As Iraqi forces fight to take back Mosul from the Islamic State group, archaeologists trained by the British Museum are preparing for another battle - trying to save what they can of the city's heritage.

One of the world's leading institutions for the study of ancient Iraq, the London museum has been training Iraqi experts for the past year in high-tech methods to preserve and document their history.

Appalling destruction

"Once the city is liberated, there will be an enormous plan of reconstruction of the Museum of Mosul," said Sebastien Rey, a lead archaeologist from the Iraq emergency heritage management training scheme.

"One of the participants of our scheme will be the first archaeologist to enter the museum and do an assessment of the destruction inside."

The programme is designed to "get people ready for the day" archaeological sites are taken back from ISIS control, said its director, Jonathan Tubb.

"We wanted to do something positive and constructive in the face of the most appalling destruction that had been going on."

Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and Mali have targeted priceless cultural heritage sites after denouncing them as un-Islamic.

The Mosul area, home to several archaeological sites including the ancient cities of Nineveh and Nimrud, is of particular importance.

In April 2015, the ISIS group released a video of its fighters destroying monuments in Nimrud before planting explosives around a site and blowing it up.

Statues in Mosul's museum were also attacked, as was Hatra, a Roman-era site in Nineveh province.

Secure sites

The Iraqi army launched a massive operation in October to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city and the last major stronghold of ISIS in the country.

Launched in January 2016, the British Museum's six-month training scheme sees Iraqi archaeologists spend three months in London and three months in Iraq.

It includes training in the use of satellite imagery and digital mapping, as well as tools for documenting buildings and monuments.

The archaeologists then practise their new skills in secure sites across their home country, which has led to new discoveries.


Read more on:    isis  |  iran  |  uk  |  archaeology

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