Mapping Mesopotamian Monuments

Columbia Global Centers | Turkey
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Columbia Global Centers | Middle East
  • Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Art History and Archaeology, College of Arts & Sciences

Mapping Mesopotamian Monuments is a project that the Department of Art History and Archaeology began in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2013. The project was awarded a 2013 PGIF Planning Grant. The Planning Grant allowed a small team from the Department of Art History and Archaeology to travel to the region in order to make contact with colleagues locally and to begin fieldwork in Iraq.

Under the directorship of Professor Zainab Bahrani, the first season of fieldwork was able to document and assess the damage of major monuments and heritage sites in Erbil, Dohuk and Suleymaniye (see attached list of sites). The information from this fieldwork is currently being prepared for the Archmap website under the Department of Art History and Archaeology. This project, Mapping Mesopotamian Monuments, intends to fit within the larger group of projects that first started with our colleague, Stephen Murray’s Mapping Gothic France. His project established the methods and system we are now applying to monuments in Iraq.

The Iraq project has the additional facets of assessing the conservation and preservation needs for each monument that can then be taken up by other universities, non-governmental agencies and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage itself. In the future, Columbia University might consider taking on one conservation project itself. Columbia’s expertise in mapping monuments and in archaeological and architectural conservation makes us an ideal place to conduct a distinctive kind of field project in Iraq. While many universities are opting to open new excavations, this is the time to preserve and conserve what is already exposed to the natural elements and to the damages of war.

The goal of the project is to map and document the monuments of Iraq and Kurdistan. The first step of the project, already accomplished in 2013 for a number of major monuments and rock or cliff sculptures, was to document the standing monuments and rock reliefs high up in the Kurdish mountains, their state of preservation and condition for historical and conservational purposes. This application for a Three Year Project Grant will enable the continuation of this work, and the organization of a conference at the Columbia Amman Center in order to meet with local colleagues for further plans.

Mapping Mesopotamian Monuments is part of the larger group of projects that first started with Stephen Murray’s (Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of Medieval Art History and Director of Art Humanities at Columbia University) Mapping Gothic France. This project established the methods and system we can now apply to monuments in Iraq. This project, focused on Iraq and led by Bahrani, will include the additional facets of assessing the conservation and preservation needs for each monument. These studies could then be taken up by other universities, non-governmental agencies and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage itself. In the future, Bahrani hopes that Columbia University might consider taking on one conservation project itself.

While many universities are opting to open new excavations, Bahrani and her team feel that this is the time to preserve and conserve what is already exposed to the natural elements and to the damages of war. The goal of this project is to map and document the monuments of Iraq and Kurdistan. The first step of the project is to document the standing monuments and rock reliefs, their state of preservation and condition for historical and conservational purposes. The second step is to record and archive digitally the monuments, and make them available for scholarly and for public use, and for use by the State Board of Antiquities locally.

Our fieldwork team of collaborators includes:

  • Haider Oraibi Almamori, Archaeologist
  • Helen Malko, Archaeologist
  • Serdar Yalcin, Archaeologist and Art Historian
  • Pamela Gerome, Preservation Architect

The project is also partially funded by Artstor and by The Mellon Foundation, under the Columbia University Archmap project, headed by Professor Stephen Murray. Professor Bahrani has alredy made one trip to Iraq/Kurdistan in October/November 2013.

External links:

For updates on the progress of this project, please visit: http://globalcenters.columbia.edu/istanbul/content/mesopotamian-documentation-project

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