The Current State of Palestinian Archaeology

Hamdan Taha The formal Palestinian management body (Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage) has been in existence now for more than fourteen years since its re-establishment in 1994. Before that some teaching programmes and courses were offered in a few Palestinian universities. The inauguration in August, 1994, of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine under the Palestinian National Authority was an important event. It is a revival of the role of the Department of Antiquities that was established in 1920 under the British Mandate. The Department was terminated with the political events of 1948, when Israel was established, while Jordan assumed those responsibilities for the West Bank and Egypt for the Gaza strip.

The new body was established in a complex time and difficult circumstances. It possessed neither archaeological record files, nor the finds of archaeological excavations previously undertaken on its soil. At the same time, the new situation gives the Palestinians who won autonomy at the end of the last century a relative independent role to explore the history of Palestine from its primary sources. It marks, however, new transformations in the role of archaeology in Palestine, with the beginning of the local field school of archaeology in Palestine, and a new phase of national and international archaeological research based on common interest and mutual respect.The perspective on which the new body is basing its efforts in research, education, preservation, and legislation is that of the contemporary internationally accepted standards. It is the modern humanistic understanding that views the integral role of Palestinian culture within human culture, making archeology in Palestine a scientific enterprise within the setting of international scientific endeavor. Cultural heritage represents the history and at the same time the identity of the Palestinian people.

This session provides a historical background on the archaeology of Palestine, an overview of its vision, inception, objectives, development and activities during this formative period. It gives an account of the archaeological field work, current projects carried out in the Palestinian areas, including the joint excavations, restoration projects and the state of preservation of archaeological and cultural heritage sites.

Potential participants are Dr. Hamid Salim, Dr. Mahmoud Hawari, Dr. Hani Nour Ed-din, Mohammed Jaradat, Ahmad Rjoob


Looting, Landscape and Law

M.M. Kersel and Y.M. Rowan -or-

This session will ask participants to examine the intersections of looting, the archaeological landscape and law. Looting of archaeological landscapes occurs throughout the world and is motivated by a variety of factors, but the underpinning commonality is that looting is an act of destruction: it destroys the cultural legacy of past societies, it destroys archaeological context, it destroys the possibility of richer cultural heritage reconstructions and it can destroy the pride of a populace in their past. In order to counter the effects of looting, governing bodies – both local and global – institute legal initiatives, but these are often unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. Looting, collecting, and the market for antiquities are components of an international economic system that combines legal and illicit aspects.

Many have vested interests in the perpetuation of looting in order to feed the demand for antiquities. Recognizing the deleterious effects of looting, most states have implemented national laws which protect their archaeological resources, or have signed international conventions designed to create cooperative agreements between market nations and those rich in archaeological resources.   Can legal restrictions work to protect the cultural heritage of a country or region, or are market forces too strong to overcome the incentives to loot? Do market nations perpetuate looting through weak laws and ineffectual political support for international conventions and reciprocal agreements? Are inadequate policies and laws an additional component of deeply embedded structural inequities that privilege the interests of powerful industrial nations over those of economically disadvantaged nation states? In this session participants present case studies and discussions about looting: the effects of such practices, creative solutions to looting, the efficacy of laws (local, national and international), and efforts to ameliorate the destruction of the landscape.

Paper: Legislative Legacies – The Development of Laws Regulating the Antiquities Trade in the Middle East

Structures of Dominance in the Levantine Late Iron Age

Reinhard Bernbeck
Department of Anthropology
Binghamton University
Binghamton, U.S.A.

Khaled Douglas
Department of Sustainable Tourism, Director
Hashemite University
Zerqa, Jordan

Azer Keskin
Department of Anthropology
Binghamton University
Binghamton, U.S.A.

The Iron Age II-III in the region between Cilicia and the Sinai is characterized by small polities, lands peripheral to an Assyrian imperial core on the Tigris. These Levantine polities underwent significant changes in their relations to the superpower of the day, but also in the relations between each other. Their dependence on Assyria could vacillate from inclusion in the Assyrian provincial system to semi-dependent client states to half-autonomous entities that were under constant threat, to outright revolt against Assyria. Their internal relations varied between being unified in resistance against the ancient superpower to each one trying to win over the sympathies of the Assyrian core, thus working against each other.

Assyria’s policies consisted of a double strategy of ruthless submission and divide and rule strategies towards the small kingdoms in the West. The former aspect is graphically depicted in the extremely violent palace reliefs in the urban core of Assyria, and narrated in cruel detail in many of the royal annals. More diplomatic ways of sowing discord between local polities are less easily perceived in the quasi-complete absence of textual material from the peripheries. It is thus the task of archaeology to try to identify political and cultural relations between peripheral polities of the Levant in order to better understand the complex web in which Levantine peoples of the Iron Age were caught.

We invite people to contribute papers to this session by addressing one or more of the following issues:

* The material culture of small kingdoms and other political units in the Levant;
* The cultural relations among such polities in terms of the public sphere (temples, palaces, monuments) and private life (pottery, figurines, etc.);
* How such cultural relations opened themselves up to manipulation by imperialist policies of Assyria;
* The presentation of new excavation data of the later Iron Age;
* New archaeological data and how they relate to, contradict or complement ideologically tainted textual sources;

  • Papers that address critically the politically and religiously charged reconstructions of later Iron Age history in t
    he Levant.

Please send abstracts of max. 200 words to:

Reinhard Bernbeck
Khaled Douglas
Azer Keskin

Paper: Network Imperialism: Assyria and the US

Paper: The excavations at Tell Tacannek reconsidered

Paper: Forced Displacement in the Iron Age

The Bones of Our Ancestors: The Treatment of Human Remains as a Mechanism for Tolerance or for Intolerance

Jon Price
Northumbria University
Ellison Place
Newcastle upon Tyne,
United Kingdom
+44 (0)191.232.7763

The issue of violent conflict carried out through responses to heritage are clearest when we examine the treatment of the cultural heritage of the dead. The desecration of tombs and cemeteries, or the restoration of desecrated tombs and cemeteries is a common manifestation of conflict, from the lowest intensity of social conflict to the highest intensity of warfare. In addition death is a normal and typical outcome of conflict, and the procedures and structures put in place to deal with war dead, or the civilian victims of conflict, are generally cultural heritage statements which often represent a continuation of conflict in a passive-aggressive way.

The dead bodies of loyal soldiers or war victims are integrated in memorial statements of political intent. Even in cemeteries where no violence is committed on the living bodies of the enemy, the dead bodies of the enemies or their ancestors may be used in a way which may have the effect, intentionally or otherwise, of doing violence to conventions of respect.

Civilian graves are excavated by the military to justify their own presence as liberators, or in the quest to bring stated war criminals to justice. Memorials and war graves created to maintain a political presence or to make a political statement are subsequently desecrated and re-dedicated in reflection of modern political conflicts which may or may not be related to the original wars.  Civilian cemeteries are desecrated by vandals, or destroyed during development.

In all these areas archaeologists are engaged or implicated. Forensic archaeologists work to identify the identity and fate of individuals in mass burials. Conservators work to repair and replace damaged memorials. Archaeologists carry out pre-development exploration which is used to justify or to hinder development plans. Can archaeologists engaged in these projects work towards toleration, or is their work always likely to reinforce intolerance and facilitate further aggression?

Paper: The Appropriation of Military War Dead for Political Purposes

The Future of Palestinian Cultural Heritage

Lynn Swartz Dodd (University of Southern California)
Ran Boytner (UCLA)

This session is an opportunity to review and envision the diverse resources for conceptualizing, protecting and developing Palestinian material cultural heritage, both under Israeli occupation and in the future.  The participants in this session are invited to focus on tangible efforts directed toward ancient architectural and archaeological heritage in which they have been involved or which they are interested in developing. In terms of looking backward, it is well known that during the past decade or more, there have been multiple projects designed to assess the inventory or status of ancient sites by a range of local and international cooperative endeavors. Looking forward, participants are invited to consider how available resources, such as the Palestinian Authority Archaeological Database, might be coordinated or standardized. Also, participants in this session are invited to assess the extent of these resources and whether they adequately reflect the totality of ancient material cultural resources in the West Bank and Gaza. If there are needs for additional investment in this area, participants are asked to envision these by discussing the nature and scale of resources necessary to achieve particular outcomes.  This may include an assessment of frameworks relevant to the management and oversight of ancient cultural heritage in the context of a future independent state, including formal mechanisms (antiquities laws) and non-binding recommendations by professional groups and international bodies (e.g. ICOMOS, UNESCO).  Alternatively, this might include efforts designed to create new perceptions and presentations of material cultural heritage. Participants are invited to assess whether adequate information resources exist to determine claims made under international law for ancient material cultural heritage in future negotiations with Israel.  Additionally, participants are invited to consider past and current efforts that have yielded tangible outcomes designed to preserve ancient material culture and sites, such as architectural preservation projects;  site rehabilitations and stabilization investments; development of cultural activities, centers or interpretive materials for the local and tourist population; educational investments in the current and future generation of archaeologists, heritage interpreters, and preservation specialists; past, present and future investments in tourism infrastructure.

The session will take the form of a roundtable discussion that will be structured through short presentations by invited participants and session organizers with opportunities for discussion and questions from other inter-congress participants.

Invited participants (in alphabetical order):

Gabriel Fahel (Legal advisor)
Salah al-Houdalieh (al-Quds)
Nazmi al-Jubeh  (RIWAQ)
Ghattas Sayej (PACE)
Hamdan Taha (Palestinian Department of Antiquities)
Adel Yahya  (PACE)

We would be interested in hearing from others who wish to contribute formally to the session. The session organizers may be contacted at and

Project: The Next Generation: Students Discuss Archaeology in the 21st Century (Ramallah Roundtable 2009)

Organizers: Georgiana Nikias, Kristin Butler, Ashley Sands

This session offers emerging archaeologists, who have been members of an online forum, an opportunity to meet in person and to engage in dialogue, not only among ourselves but also in conversation with practicing professional and academic archaeologists. The organizers of this in-person session happen to be American university students, but students from any country may participate in both the Facebook online group discussions and this session in Ramallah. At this roundtable discussion, we will have a face-to-face opportunity to raise and answer questions, as we share diverse perspectives and develop relationships as peers and future colleagues. The purpose of this roundtable is to enable a conversation among the emerging generation of archaeologists. Our goal is to discuss the varied challenges that lie before us — from our perspective as archaeologists-in-training.  We will discuss issues of access relating to funding, to academic freedom, to mentors, to language training, to travel, to family support, to field ex
perience. We also encourage other conversations that naturally emerge from our educational traditions, politics, or cultural issues that relate to valuing the past.  All these affect research and potentially impinge on creating and sharing archaeological knowledge. This engagement is an attempt to create networks and relationships that would not exist otherwise between these new archaeologists. This is a multi-agent, multi-directional cultural diplomacy effort. Through the process of dialogue, we will discover ways to affect the future development of our field – its practices, ethics, and policy matters. Because this face-to-face session will be held in Ramallah, there will be physical-access issues for Israelis and perhaps others. If some participants in the online conversations can’t come to Ramallah, that inability to attend becomes emblematic of barriers that impede academic discourse across borders. For instance, Palestinians have long suffered from constraints on travel to and participation in meetings outside the occupied territories. Language is also an issue…the official language of this session is English. However, if we know about translation needs in advance, we will attempt to arrange language translation (e.g. Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Kurdish).

The need for communication among the emerging archaeologists has never been greater. This session seeks to co-opt institutions (WAC for a start), media, communication technology and networking tools to serve our interests and support our values. As new archaeologists, we want to raise issues, create relationships and mobilize them to expand our collective ability to improve our field, through greater engagement by an increasingly diverse group, most especially a group that includes voices of the next generation.



Archaeology in Conflict – the “Blue Shield” Perspective

Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen & Friedrich Schipper
Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, The Hague, The Netherlands
Austrian National Committee of the Blue Shield, Vienna, AustriaAbstract: This “Blue Shield” workshop is intended to inform scholars in particular from Near Eastern countries how to communicate and interact with the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) and the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) as the prime international NGOs that officially deal with the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and natural disaster on the basis and by the mandate and within the framework of the conventions of international law. As well it informs scholars how to establish a national committee and to communicate and interact with other national committees – all in order to enhance archaeological heritage protection in the various countries of the Near East on NGO level.

Background information:

The protection of archaeological heritage is not merely about monuments and artifacts but about people and identity, it is not about the past but about the present and future of humankind. The history of the past 25 years demonstrate that, despite international conventions and public awareness, archaeological heritage and cultural property in general are a target of increasing priority in the event of armed conflict. This is in particular true for the countries of the Near East. Such conflicts often form the context of the looting of archaeological sites. The looting and destruction connected to armed conflicts threatens scientific investigation on, conservation of and general access to our archaeological heritage, and to the World Cultural Heritage sites in particular. An additional factor is the illicit trade in antiquities which forms according to various calculations about 90% of international trade in archaeological assets.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (HC) and its 1st Protocol were drafted against the backdrop of experiences of World War II when combat damage to cultural property was most likely to have happened as collateral damage (e.g. in the event of bombardments of a city or artillery battles in urban contexts). Since then, warfare and conflict scenarios have changed dramatically, even though regular armed forces of many national states have applied elements to the military rules of engagement to meet the principles and standards of the HC and the 2nd Protocol to the HC intends to cope with this changes.

Nevertheless: Today – and most likely also tomorrow, armed conflicts are to a lesser extend limited to “classical” conflict scenarios as war in its sense of international law (as the HC) fought by regular armed forces of national states. More and more we face inter-ethnic and inter-religious armed conflicts fought by irregular forces that are not constrained by the conventions of international law. As well, we have to deal with long lasting post-conflict scenarios in situations of political instability as well as long term military occupation provoking violent insurgency and guerrilla resistance. Even when conflicts are carried out by national entities that are constrained by the conventions of international law, it is increasing reality that governments tend to deploy also private military and security companies in addition to regular armed forces that act also as no subject to international law. All these developments added largely to the dramatic loss of cultural property since the end of World War II, which is almost 50 % of all cultural property according to UN estimates. Facing the dramatic changes in warfare and the incredible loss of cultural property, the archaeological community has react to it.

The Blue Shield is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. It is the symbol specified in the 1954 Hague Convention for marking cultural sites to give them protection from attack in the event of armed conflict. It is also the name of an international committee set up in 1996 to work to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflicts and natural disasters. The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) covers cultural property protection issues of archaeological and historic sites, museums, archives and libraries. It brings together the knowledge, experience and international networks of the five expert organizations dealing with cultural heritage: an unrivalled body of expertise which is available to advise and assist in responding to events such as war in former Yugoslavia and hurricanes in Central America. ICBS is international, independent and professional. The international Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) is a network of national committees all over the work coordinating and facilitating practical work on the ground. ICBS/ANCBS are the prime international bodies that officially deal with the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and natural disaster on the basis and by the mandate and within the framework of the conventions of international law! The national Blue Shield committees and their international bodies are devoted to coordinating and strengthening international efforts to protect cultural property at risk, providing and promoting cultural heritage protection training programs and awareness raising with international and governmental decision makers on the importance of the 1954 Hague Convention and its Protocols and the international symbol of the Blue Shield.


Current Challenges to Palestinian Cultural Heritage Abstract – WAC Ramallah Intercongress

Session Chairman: Dr. Salah Hodaliah.


1- Mr. Muhamad Jaradat: Department of Archaeology: Illicit digging and antiquity trade.

2- Ms. CarlaCarla Benelli: The situation of the dispersion of cultural heritage in Palestine, case study “Ain Duke synagogue”

3- Mr. Walid Sharif: Ministry of Tourism. Palestinian antiquities laws.

4- Dr. Shukri Araf: The Impact of Globalization and Occupation on Palestinian Cultural Heritage.

Time allocation: 2 hours for the entire session. Each presenter will be allotted 15 minutes to present his/her paper. The papers will be followed by a discussion of the whole session.


Palestinian cultural heritage, and particularly, the country’s archaeological heritage, is at great risk. The threats are many, diverse and quite serious. Some of those threats such as illegal digging and antiquity trade are internal and self inflecting, while others like the Israeli separation wall, direct Israeli military activities, and settlement activities are external threats. They are still up to this very day devastating the country’s archeological heritage, and little has been done to confront them thus far. The four presenters will discuss those challenges and shed light on their immediate and future impact on Palestinian archaeological heritage.

The first presenter will elaborate on the phenomenon of illicit digging in the Palestinian areas and the expansion of this phenomenon in recent years. He will also discuss the current situation of the illegal antiquities trade and its connection with the Israeli antiquities market. The second presenter will deal with the impacts of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank on Palestinian heritage as well as the impacts of pass roads, settlements and direct Israeli military activities in the past and the present and especially during the current uprising (Intifada). The third speaker will discuss the impacts of the current laws governing antiquities in the Palestinian Areas and especially the draft law to see if those laws are helping protect heritage or not. And the last presenter will discuss the human and financial resources available for the protection of Palestinian archaeological heritage especially since the establishment of the Palestinian authority and the department of antiquities.

Presentations will be followed by half an hour of discussions between the presenters and the audience.


Cultural appropriation of archaeology in Palestine Chairman:
Mahmoud Hawari: Department of History and Archaeology
Birzeit University, Beirzeit, Palestine
Mahmoud Hawari: The citadel in Jerusalem
Adel Yahya: Joseph’s tomb in Nablus
Usama Hamdan: Sebastia (Samaria)
Raed Khalil: Jericho Mosaics Abstract: The term cultural appropriation is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture; where a more powerful culture raids a less powerful neighbouring culture; or, when there are other issues involved, such as a history of ethnic or racial conflict between the two groups. It can include the appropriation of forms of dress, food, music, art, icons, rituals, language, religion, holy sites, and historical and archaeological heritage. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held. In the process of Zionist colonisation of Palestine and the gradual dispossession of Palestinians of their land, Israeli archaeology had been actively employed to dispossess Palestinians of their history and appropriate their cultural heritage. Biblical archaeology has reigned supreme. Its goal was to establish a link between the modern State of Israel and the ‘Israelite’ period. As a result, the pluralistic nature of the past of the region of Palestine virtually vanished from public awareness and with it the Arab past, traditions and cultural heritage. In the meantime, Israel continues to intensify its political and cultural appropriation of archaeological sites in the West Bank. In this session participants will examine and present case studies about cultural appropriation in the archaeology of Palestine.


Poster Sessions

Poster Session: Development and institutionalization of underwater archaeology in Portugal

Author: INFANTINI, L. RPoster: In Portugal, the preoccupation of Underwater Cultural Heritage started during the decade of 1970, when Decree 416/70 was published and the findings with archaeological interest start to receive a differentiated treatment for the State, ensuring their protection in opposition to the previous “legal vacuum”.However, in the decade of 1990, Decree Nº 289/93 was published, fomenting the commercial exploration by particular companies of the Underwater Heritage. This decree was revoked in June of 1997, the same year of the creation of the IPA (Portuguese Institute of Archaeology) and of the CNANS (National Center of Nautical and Underwater Archaeology). Considerating such issues, the objective of this poster is to show evolution of laws about underwater cultural heritage in Portugal.


Poster Session: Ethnoarchaeology in Brazil in the context of the re-democratization Author: POLONI, R. J. S.Poster: Questions relative to ethnicity have been very important for the construction of the identities of Brazilian people, and constitute a focus of interest of many social and human sciences, like archaeology, anthropology and ethnoarchaeology as well as of some governmental and civil organizations, like FUNAI (Indigene National Foundation) and NGO “Survival”. The objective of this poster is to analyze the approach of Non-Governmental Organizations to ethnicity, in particular the work of the World Archaeological Congress, with the objective to perceive how archaeology and other sciences have provoked social questioning concerning this theme.