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Iraqi archaeologists dig Chicago museum

Isolated from their international colleagues first by Saddam Hussein's regime and then by war, Iraqi researchers are anxious to be introduced to modern techniques and trained on equipment they can use to better investigate Iraq's rich cultural heritage.

Hands covered in blue gloves, Iraqi archaeologists carefully place samples in a glass tube to determine if they pose a threat to artifacts artifacts

see specimen artifacts.

It's a simple test used by museums around the world to make sure materials used to display or store artifacts are not corrosive corrosive /cor·ro·sive/ (kor-o´siv) producing gradual destruction, as of a metal by electrochemical reaction or of the tissues by the action of a strong acid or alkali; an agent that so acts. , but one these researchers are learning for the first time during a six month fellowship at Chicago's Field Museum.

"So many objects need conservation," said Alaa Hussein Jasim, an archaeologist with the Iraq Ministry of State for Tourism and Antiquities.

"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."

The US State Department is also providing funding to restore the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, which was ransacked ran·sack  
tr.v. ran·sacked, ran·sack·ing, ran·sacks
1. To search or examine thoroughly.

2. To search carefully for plunder; pillage.
 by looters following the 2003 invasion, and to build a historic preservation Historic preservation is the act of maintaining and repairing existing historic materials and the retention of a property's form as it has evolved over time. When considering the United States Department of Interior's interpretation: "Preservation calls for the existing form,  training institute in Erbil.

"Before (the) war we had many techniques for conservation and analysis," said Shukran Al-Alwe, a conservator conservator n. a guardian and protector appointed by a judge to protect and manage the financial affairs and/or the person's daily life due to physical or mental limitations or old age.  with the Iraq National Museum.

"After (the) war we don't have any more of this because our laboratory was destroyed completely."

Alwe and her colleagues have been forced to rely upon simple conservation methods like manually grinding off rust and applying a protective varnish varnish, homogeneous solution of gum or of natural or synthetic resins in oil (oil varnish) or in a volatile solvent (spirit varnish), which dries on exposure to air, forming a thin, hard, usually glossy film.  because the museum did not have the funding to buy new equipment.

The new tools and techniques will allow them to better restore, analyze and protect the thousands of objects in the museum's growing collection.

Archaeologists continue to dig despite the instability in Iraq, which is home to the earliest human civilization - Sumerian - and has hundreds if not thousands of unexplored sites.

But the museum was sorely sore·ly  
1. Painfully; grievously.

2. Extremely; greatly: Their skills were sorely needed.
 lacking in the funds and facilities to store and manage its collection.

"We have to preserve these objects to keep them in good condition because these objects represent our civilization and our heritage," Alwe told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. .

The Field Museum will host 18 Iraqi researchers over the next two years in partnership with the University of Chicago.

They will be trained in conservation, collection management and how to find, map and better excavate new sites with tools like ground penetrating radar and satellite imagery Satellite imagery consists of photographs of Earth or other planets made from artificial satellites. History
The first satellite photographs of Earth were made August 14, 1959 by the US satellite Explorer 6.

"Anarchy ANARCHY. The absence of all political government; by extension, it signifies confusion in government.  and looting of archaeological sites has destroyed 25 percent of the sites in southern Iraq," said Field curator James Phillips, who is in charge of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project.

"We're moving in the right direction now. The Iraqi government acknowledges that archeology is important and they should preserve it."

The program will also help the Field museum better understand its collection of 23,000 artifacts from the 5,000 year-old city of Kish, Iraq which were excavated between 1923 and 1933.

"For us, it's a very interesting exchange," said Hildegard Heine, a German conservator who manages the museum's Kish project and is helping to train the Iraqis.

"They can teach us something about these objects that we didn't know."
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:May 14, 2009
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