Iraqi Archaeologists Train at Chicago's Field Museum
For Immediate Release
Contact: Field Museum PR Department
(312) 665-7100, email@example.com
CHICAGO - May 4, 2009 - Archaeologists at Chicago's Field Museum are now starting to work with colleagues from Iraq to introduce them to modern techniques for restoring, maintaining and retrieving ancient relics. The media is invited to an event on May 4 at The Field Museum to welcome the Iraqis and introduce them to the Museum's staff (more information below). The event will be held at the Museum's Regenstein Laboratory, a glass-enclosed lab where visitors can watch scientists restore anthropological artifacts.
Birthplace of many ancient and complex civilizations, Iraq is a rich source for archaeological study, but scientists there were isolated from international colleagues for years during Saddam Hussein's regime and are not up to date on many new developments. With the help of a government grant, Field Museum scientists will now be training Iraqis in the technology and chemistry used in restoring and analyzing ancient relics.
"Computers, X-ray fluorescent machines and solvents are all tools we now use," says James Phillips, PhD, director of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project at The Field Museum. "Over the years, there have been changes in techniques for analyzing materials and identifying the sources of stone and metals. For instance, we now have ground-penetrating radar enabling us to identify walls of buried buildings before we dig. There are aerial photos and satellite imagery available. The Field Museum is going to share its knowledge."
"Over the next two years, Field Museum scientists will train 18 Iraqi colleagues to use these modern techniques so they can return to their country and train others," Dr. Phillips adds.
The Iraq Cultural Heritage Project is sponsored by the U.S. State Department with a grant of $13 million to the International Relief and Development Corporation (IRD). The Field Museum and Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago are two local academic entities helping to execute the goal of restoring Iraq's capabilities to conserve, study, and display its vast cultural heritage.
"Iraqi scientists don't have the facilities to store and manage what they are working on today," says Phillips. "They need to correctly process and catalog what they have."
Besides bringing Iraqi scientists to the United States for training, the State Department project envisions building an institute in the Iraqi city of Erbil to focus on technical and professional training in historic preservation. Under the program, the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad, which suffered extensive damage and looting in 2003, will also be restored and upgraded with new equipment.
Among the first six Iraqi scientists now training in Chicago is Alaa Hussein Jasim, an archaeologist with the Iraq Ministry of State for Tourism and Antiquities.
"So many objects need conservation," he says. "They need to be repaired and put in good condition. When we know the internal structure of an object, know the metals, we then know which methods of restoration we should follow."
In addition to restoring and conserving ceramics and other objects for display in museums, Iraqis face the task of restoring buildings, some thousands of years old, which are currently exposed at sites scattered throughout their country. Restoring such sites can provide intriguing clues about how earlier civilizations operated and can also serve as a destination for tourists.
Sami Abdulhussein Hasan, a civil engineer who consults at many Iraqi archaeological sites, says he hopes to learn new techniques for analyzing the mud bricks and gypsum mortar used to construct ancient buildings. He also wants to know more about the effects water may have on these materials while they are buried underground.
Phillips of The Field Museum says that while U.S. scientists will teach Iraqis, the U.S. scientists will also listen and learn from their overseas colleagues.
"We're finding out their specific needs and, hopefully, we will bring in some lecturers to address topics of interest," Phillips says. "I will be writing a report to the IRD and the State Department that addresses what other needs they might have."
Despite decades of scientific study of ancient sites as well as looting of temples and tombs, Iraq is still home to huge stores of antiquities that are virtually untouched.
"There are hundreds, if not thousands of unexcavated sites," Phillips notes. "Some are towns or cities — huge places where you have to choose what to excavate. There aren't enough archaeologists in the world to excavate all the sites we know of in Iraq."
|Where:||Regenstein Lab, Mezzanine Level (inside Traveling the Pacific exhibition) at
The Field Museum,
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL
|When:||Monday, May 4, 2009 at 10:30 a.m.|
|Details:||Speak with the conservators and view them preparing these artifacts for travel. This loan will return to The Field Museum Spring 2010.
For more information, visit fieldmuseum.org
|RSVP:||RSVP's must be received by 12pm, Friday, May 1 - (312) 665-7100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|Please Note:||Parking is available in the Museum's west lot upon request.|