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‘When everyone’s culpable, is anyone guilty?’ Responsibility for the cultural heritage before, during, and after armed conflict

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Peter Stone OBE


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Led by the cultural heritage community, the world reacted in horror and outrage as it became clear that the Iraq Museum had been looted in 2003. Concern only increased as the full extent of looting of archaeological sites in Iraq became clear. It is difficult not to agree with Colin Renfrew when he argues the events reveal “a tale…of gut-wrenching negligence and astonishing incompetence by American (and British) politicians and military leaders, and of their disastrous outcome”. Archaeologists had tried to brief Coalition forces as to the remarkable cultural heritage with which they would come into contact in Iraq. Some, myself included, had at least been listened to although our efforts can now be seen to have failed. Some archaeologists suggest that, by briefing the military, we abdicated our ethical position and became ‘embedded archaeologists’, lending legitimacy to the war through our well-meaning, but misguided, efforts. Is the cultural heritage community without blame? In the latter half of the Twentieth Century, we failed to maintain the close relationship with the military developed during the Second World War and thus lost our ability to influence the military and their political leaders. Should we have tried? And what should we do now, in anticipation of the next conflict?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stone PG

Editor(s): Matthews, R., Curtis, J.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: 7th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

Year: 2012

Volume: 2

Pages: 3-13

Publisher: Harrassowitz Verlag

Place Published: Wiesbaden

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783447066853