Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

UT Antiquities Action Conference: Global Inititatives Towards Cultural Heritage Preservation: Who Owns the Past? program

A UT Antiquities Action conference will take place April 2, 2016 and feature keynote speaker Salam al-Kuntar from the University of Pennsylvania. This conference is sponsored by Middle East Studies, Department of Classics and Department of Art and Art History.

8:30 a.m.
Coffee

9 a.m.
Sterling Wright (The University of Texas at Austin)

Socialist Archaeology: Is It Worth Saving?
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a country that resides just north of Greece. Following World War II, the country became one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. The government for this new country was based on what many scholars refer to as Marxism and socialism. Today, the general public in Macedonia disapproves this socio-political policy. In light of this, many have felt that the country should destroy all “archaeological remains” that have been associated with socialism. However, there is also a growing number of people in Macedonia to reevaluate this sort of action. They feel that even though their socialist history was a dark period, it is still part of their cultural identity. This presentation looks into the developments of socialist archaeology in Macedonia.

9:30 a.m.
Dr. Nathan Elkins (Baylor University)

Saving Our Past: The Centrality of the Trade in Ancient Coins
When we think about the illicit antiquities trade, we tend to focus on statues, sarcophagi, Greek vases, and other “monumental” objects. But the trade in “minor antiquities,” and especially in ancient coins, is an integral part of the illicit antiquities trade. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been greater attention paid to the role of the illicit trade in ancient coins. This contribution examines the centrality of the trade in ancient coins in the broader trade in Mediterranean antiquities, sourcing practices for the trade, the scale of the trade, and legal challenges mounted by coin dealers and their lobbyist.

10 a.m.
Dr. Susan Benton-Bruning (Southern Methodist University)

From Pueblo to Paris: The International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Objects
Abstract coming soon...

10:30 a.m.
Dr. David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin)

The Looting of La Corona: A Case Study of Destruction, Archaeology and Preservation at an Ancient Maya Center
In the late 1960s a group of related sculptures and text fragments came to the attention of scholars, all looted from an unknown Maya ruin designated as “Site Q.” Epigraphic studies of these inscriptions revealed the outlines of royal history from this unidentified site, which evidently had close associations with other powerful Maya kingdoms during the 7th and 8th centuries. In 1997, the initial discovery and documentation of the ruins of La Corona revealed it to be the likely origin of nearly all of the Site Q materials. Archaeological investigations at La Corona since 2005 have uncovered many more sculptures, some parts of monuments looted decades ago. Efforts are now underway to restore La Corona’s monuments, merging data from both excavations and from collections, giving hope to what had once been a hopeless example of site destruction.

11 a.m.
Dr. Dale Correa (The University of Texas at Austin)

Writing Manuscripts into Cultural Heritage Preservation: The Role of Western Scholars in the Recovery of Knowledge
Abstract coming soon...

Noon – 1 p.m.
Lunch break

1 p.m.
Nicole Payntar (The University of Texas at Austin)

Local Identities in Global Contexts: Examining the Effects of Cultural Heritage Destruction in Conflict Zones
The recent surge in cultural heritage destruction and antiquities trafficking in Syria is occurring at an unprecedented rate. With most Western media outlets focusing their attention on high profile instances of heritage destruction at the hands of Da’esh, damage to archaeological sites by additional operatives in the country continues to be under reported. The sustained looting and trafficking of antiquities constitutes an irreparable loss of regional knowledge and presents adverse impacts on local identities. By assessing the damage and destruction of heritage sites by groups across Syria, patterns of social inequality and heritage hierarchy emerge. This paper will examine the consequences of cultural heritage destruction in terms of identity and the perception of regional power. It will also address the significance that cultural heritage may contribute toward rebuilding nations in post-conflict stages.

1:30 p.m.
Dr. Janice Leoshko (The University of Texas at Austin)

On the Invention of Heritage
In hindsight the many ensuing tragedies resulting from the events of September 11, 2001 are spectacularly foregrounded by the destruction of the colossal Buddhas at Bamiyanorchestrated by the Taliban in March 2001. This paper seeks to understand what has happened to the “image” of this famous site since that time within perspectives first developed in the insightful volume The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawmand Terence Ranger (1983). What are the results of the inscription of Bamiyan as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003? What is at stake in “heritage production” within museum, academic and political contexts?

2 p.m.
Dr. Salam al-Kuntar (University of Pennsylvania)

Responses to the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Syria and Iraq: A Critical Appraisal of Current Efforts
The destruction of cultural heritage in the current conflicts in Syria and Iraq is well known to the international heritage community. The common belief is that interventions to protect cultural heritage are extremely difficult to design and implement during conflict, and that both the Syrian and Iraqi crisis are particularly intractable for experts and heritage actors who are seeking to offer their assistance. In this presentation, I provide a critical appraisal of the responses that have been advanced to protect cultural heritage during the crisis to date. I argue that the mobilization of the international community and the varied responses that have been made are hindered by the real difficulty inherent in maintaining a professed rhetoric of universality and neutrality. I also offer some evidence that emergency heritage projects designed to address local needs inside Syria may offer some measure of success and hope for saving heritage and helping the people who are struggling to survive this war.

3 p.m.
Coffee + adjourn


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