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Introducing new approaches in archaeology:

Project for training young archaeologists and university students in Iraq

Iraq-Dhiqar province

Report on the training program of introducing modern techniques and methods in conducting archaeological field work to a group of 15 trainees of archaeologists Fall 2016 –Spring 2017

By Dr. Abdulameer al-Dafar

The training program was organized with financial support of the Leon Levy Foundation, and was taken place at the ancient cities of Ur and Eridu in southern Iraq.

The goal of the program was to improve skills of the trainees so that this new generation of archaeologists in Iraq will be able to conduct systematic field work to protect and preserve the Iraq’s cultural heritage. The trainees received over eight weeks of theoretical and practical knowledge to implement field work strategies and methods. These were included Research Design in archaeology, use of remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS), conducting intensive systematic survey and selecting locations for conducting excavations, field recording surface objects and features; applying methods of collecting data and assemblages, introducing field and object photography, recording finds: drawing, typologies, classification, and registration, site and landscape identification and protection of cultural heritage, stratigraphy and occupational phases, final data analysis and interpretation, and note taking and writing a site report after conducting a survey or an excavation.

The course and the program was taught in Arabic. Maps, images, photos, and illustrations were shown to the trainees during the program, either via computers or off-print copies, from the theoretical background to the practice work. A half of the trainees have participated and involved with Stony Brook University expedition at the ancient city of Ur-Iraq that conducted excavations for six weeks. Therefore, they have been taught methods of digging, stratigraphy, and recovering artifacts.

The results of the program are excellent. This group of young employed and unemployed archaeologists were trained in order to prepare them to conduct archaeological fieldwork based on strong survey and analysis skills which they can pass on to others. The project served to develop the abilities of the next generation for future field work and marked the first time in Iraq that training in modern approaches in conducting fieldwork. This program improved the skills and abilities of the trainees in the field of archaeology and cultural heritage in Iraq, and allowed them to conduct their research more systematically. This training program was designed to be a first step in bringing back the degree of professionalism which Iraqi archaeologists enjoyed in the past. Moreover, these trainees will serve as trainers for the next generation.

The program provided training that can be used for future including fieldwork extensive survey work, site assessment, and excavations. Moreover, since it involved the collection, documentation and classification of ceramics (for dating) and artifacts, and involved the detailed mapping of both artifacts and features, it is provided training in the skills needed for excavators. Furthermore, in the process the trainees gained an understanding of the link between actual field work and research design.

One is helpful that the enthusiasm and dedication demonstrated by the trainees will lead to their full professional autonomy and proficiency.

Abdulameer al-Dafar
Anthropologist – Archaeologist

April 24, 2017


National and local media covered the training program

Trainees at work

  • Introducing modern ways of conducting fieldwork
  • Field recording surface objects and features; applying methods of collecting data and assemblages
  • Conducting systematic intensive survey and selecting areas for excavation
  • Evaluating and assessing site surface
  • Sieving the dirt and finding small objects
  • Floatation
  • Drawing ceramic sherds
  • Object photography
  • Object classification
  • Object registration
  • Preparing the final report of the field work

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