Two Cornell University experts in anthropology and archaeology respond to the recent video released by ISIS showing the destruction of unique and important archaeological artifacts in the Mosul Museum.
Adam T. Smith, Chair and Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University and Director of Graduate Studies for the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies says the wide-scale and systematic looting of archaeological sites speak to a wider ignorance of archaeology and the meaning of the artifacts.
Smith says: "The wanton destruction of unique archaeological artifacts in the Mosul Museum and elsewhere, some thousands of years old, is appalling and utterly deplorable. But more pernicious still is ISIS’ wide-scale and systematic looting of archaeological sites, which supports their thriving, hypocritical and illegal trade in antiquities. Strong efforts should be made to stop this trade, especially outside ISIS controlled areas, to prevent money from this illegal trade flowing back to support ISIS.
"The smashed artifacts of the Mosul Museum also speak to a wider ignorance of archaeology and the meaning of the artifacts that we recover, study, and preserve. Archaeology as a discipline clearly needs to do more to expand a global understanding of, and appreciation for, the heritage of the past."
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Sturt W. Manning, Director of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies and Chair of the Department of Classics at Cornell says the best way to stop ISIS is to develop more archaeology education in order to help communities understand the fragility of the archaeological record and its critical importance.
"Attacks on archaeological sites and artifacts represent a brutal assault on our collective human memory, on the evidence of human endeavor and achievement. The smashed remains now testify to human folly and the senseless violence that drives ISIS – they are sadly destroying the evidence of the great history of their own country. "In combating ISIS, a major problem is that expressions of outrage at their many appalling acts merely feed their global publicity machine – a publicity built in this instance on the absurdity and vanity of figures dressed in neat clean clothes wielding brand new sledgehammers for the benefit of the camera. Rather than satisfy ISIS' want for publicity, what we can really usefully do is to try to develop more archaeology education globally – in Iraq and other ISIS-affected countries and among people everywhere – in order to help communities understand the fragility of the archaeological record and its critical importance to understanding the human career."
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