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’Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations’ (UNESCO World Heritage Project). Heritage has increasingly become a political issue in the last twenty years, with the destruction of monuments, temples and tombs being both the symbol of contemporary sectarianism and the insufficiently heeded prelude to huge turmoil in the Near East and Europe. As we face the current crisis in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, archaeology is playing a crucial interface role, revealing the weaknesses of traditional and fragmented European diplomacy, but also showing how conjoint attention to heritage can rebuild both the region and relationships.

In December 2016 at the Abu Dhabi Conference, safeguarding endangered cultural heritage was ranked for the very first time as a high priority for European Union interventions abroad. To make good on the promises, the scientific community has to define and negotiate actual alternative channels of interaction between Europe and the Near East, adapted to local political realities. WP4-Heritage will provide direct field examples of the new war archaeology framed by science and enabled by technological innovation. It will deliver strong insight to InsSciDE stakeholders on this particularly fast-moving and impactful branch of science diplomacy, and directly influence the ways in which heritage and diplomacy will interact in shaping relationships among a completely new generation of foreign policy actors and scholars in Europe and in the Near East.

InsSciDE’s Heritage Objectives, under Alexander Pruss (JGU Mainz)

To address the preservation of heritage sites, war archaeology’s first step is the meticulous and often dangerous monitoring of damage. The second step, grounded in this data collection, should be the building up of international projects devoted to the formulation of reconstruction projects. WP4 Heritage contributes directly to technology-enabled damage assessment and preservation projects currently undertaken in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria by European and national actors. These complex, hybrid and multi-stakeholder processes are analyzed with InsSciDE practitioners as a vibrant example of European science diplomacy in the making.

Formerly, archeology conducted by Europeans in the Near East was an expression of imperialist preoccupation with the “Oriental question”, and a sometimes uneasy cooperation between European powers and young nation-states built upon the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Today, by contrast, European-led archaeological works lead to the construction of new communities and identities, but also new economic opportunities (rebuilding programs under the aegis of UNESCO, activities to protect threatened areas, or salvage projects integrating environmental and archaeological dimensions such as those conducted in the marsh areas of southern Iraq, etc.).

• Illuminate the legacy of shared responsibility between European and Near Eastern scientific and political actors which underlies the practice of Near Eastern archaeology, viewed prospectively as a tool to achieve a common future rooted in a shared memory.
• Consider Near Eastern archaeology as a potential and emergent form of European science democracy, through a critical historical analysis of three embedded European missions from the 1920’s onward.
• Demonstrate the requirements and achievements of the new war archaeology, by reinforcing and analyzing the technology-enabled European contribution to the necessary assessment of the damages during conflicts and in their aftermath.


The Heritage Work Package will contribute two case studies to InsSciDE’s Library of Cases. Find out more about these case studies by exploring WP4’s case study pitches. Find all published case studies here.