AYDA – a digital register of heritage monuments for Yemen | Interview with Dr. Iris Gerlach

Largely unnoticed by the world’s public the war in Yemen endangers the life of people and their cultural heritage. Together with her team the archaeologist Dr. Iris Gerlach is working on a digital heritage information system for this crisis region, the Ancient Yemen Digital Atlas (AYDA). The project is funded by the cultural preservation programme of the German Federal Foreign Office. Dr. Iris Gerlach, the director of the Sana’a Office of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) hopes that this digital project will contribute to the protection of Yemen’s cultural heritage. In the interview she explains the way in which the scientists implement the project.

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Cultural Awareness Programmes for Children. Train the Trainers – Bringing Knowledge to the Public (Jordan)

Since four years building researchers and experimental archaeologists of the German Archaeological Institute train Syrian refugees and Jordanian experts in cultural work and the mediation of antique cultural techniques.

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Music History Archives of Radio and Television (Afghanistan)

While the demolition of historic buildings over recent decades has been very visible, less public attention has been drawn to the no less devastating destruction of documents and other media, including audio and film material relating to expressions of Afghanistan’s intangible cultural heritage.

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Entangled History – European Year of Cultural Heritage

As part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 – Sharing Heritage, the German Archaeological Institute hosts several events including lectures and exhibitions.

Since its foundation on April 21, 1829 in Rome, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) sees itself as a European research institution. The founding members from different European nations had set themselves the goal of researching and preserving the cultural heritage of Europe. The institute, which now operates with 19 locations and over 250 projects worldwide, has maintained this claim to this day. Of course, cultural heritage does not stop at the borders of Europe, but rather focuses on the cultural heritage of humanity worldwide – with all its links and mutual influence with and on Europe: Entangled History!

In the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the German Archaeological Institute created a platform for participation and exchange at its Europe-wide locations. The exhibitions, lectures, discussions and conferences refer to the theme “Europe: exchange and movement” – one of five main themes of the year.

The following exhibitions in the framework of “Entangled History”can be visited in Turkey and Germany this summer:

Pergamon Resurrected! – New Exhibition on the 3D Reconstructions of an antique city (Turkey)

Photo Exhibition in Bergama – Neither in Heaven nor on Earth (Turkey)

 

Find out more about events of Sharing Heritage – European Heritage Year 2018.

World Heritage – Facts and Figures

The World Heritage Committee meets again in a few weeks in Bahrain to select the sites that will be listed in the UNESCO World Heritag List. Time for some Facts and figures before the big day arrives.

 

UNESCO adopted the convention concerning the protection of the World cultural and natural heritage on 16 November 1972. It entered into force in 1975, and the first inscriptions on the World Heritage list followed in 1978. The convention defines cultural and natural heritage in a way that views in its entirety, in its overall context; and it states that it is incumbent on the international community as a whole to take part in protecting world heritage and transmitting it to future generations. In 1982 the old city of Jerusalem, “in view of the special political situation”, was the first cultural heritage site to be entered on a list of World heritage in danger. To date, the convention has been ratified by 190 states. Each state that is party to the convention recognizes the duty of ensuring protection of World Heritage sites within their frontiers and of conserving them for future generations.

Old City of Sana’a. Yemen | Image: Wiki Commons.

On the adoption of the global Strategy in 1994, the concept of cultural heritage was enlarged, with “cultural landscape” being added as a subcategory of “cultural site”. The UNESCO attaches priority to nominations from countries that don’t yet figure on the World Heritage list. This is because more than half of all world heritage sites formerly lay in Europe and North America. The definition of cultural heritage in Article 1 of the convention reflected the western world’s own definition of itself with reference to cultural heritage in the 1960s. In 1994 the Nara document on Authenticity, adopted in Nara, Japan, opened the way for the recognition of non-western concepts and techniques of conservation. The further development of the world heritage idea is also reflected in the membership of the World heritage committee. On this body, members from the southern hemisphere are gradually replacing and outnumbering members from the north.

 

Temple of Bel in Palmyra. Destroyed in 2015 | Image: Wiki Commons.

2018: 1.000 sites under UNESCO protection
Over 1.000 cultural and natural heritage sites representing all the continents are registered on the UNESCO World heritage list. Of the 193 States parties to the UNESCO convention on the protection of cultural and natural heritage, 167 have properties on the World heritage list. The list of World Heritage in danger currently numbers 54 World Heritage sites, including the Old City of Sana’a in Yemen, the ancient city of Palmyra, Assur in Irak, the early Christian ruins of Abu Mena in Egypt and Everglades National Park in America. The UNESCO World Heritage committee checks every year whether the sites are still in danger. The World Heritage committee meets once a year to decide, among other things, on inscriptions on the World Heritage list. This year the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee will take place between June 24 and July 4 in Bahrain. Proposals for inscription may only be submitted by member states, which, by doing so, accept responsibility for preservation of the site.

 

Source: Archaeology Worldwide 2015

Image: Temple of Angkor Wat, Cambodia | pxhere.

 

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Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

The Path to World Heritage

The Path to World Heritage

In a few weeks, between June 24 and July 4 2018, the World Heritage List will be reassessed in Bahrain during the 42. Session of the World Heritage Committee. Every year the Committee meets to select the sites to be listed on the UNESCO Word Heritage List. But what does it take to get on the Cultural Heritage List of the UNESCO?

 

UNESCO requires the following commitment from states that have world heritage sites on their territory: “By signing the convention the States parties undertake to protect the world heritage sites lying within their borders and to preserve them for future generations.” There are ten criteria, one of which must be met, in order for a site, monument or feature to be designated world heritage. A cultural asset is deemed to be of “outstanding universal value” if, for example, it is a “masterpiece of human creative genius”, is representative of a type of art, building or landscape or an architectural or technological ensemble which reflects an important phase in human history, or if it bears witness to a cultural tradition or to a civilization that has disappeared. A site is considered to be natural heritage if it contains “superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”, if it illustrates a major phase in the earth’s history, represents significant ecological and biological processes, or contains important natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity.

 

The pyramids of Meroe in Sudan are on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011. Image: DAI.

 

From Nomination to Inscription

The phase from the nomination to the inscription of newly proposed properties lasts at least 18 months – from February of a given year until the World Heritage Committee session in June/ July of the following year when a decision will be taken. The process begins with the UNESCO World Heritage centre inviting member states to submit a tentative list of properties situated within their borders which they may consider proposing for nomination. Nominations are then submitted before the 1st February deadline for evaluation and decision-making the following year.

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most impressive Neolithic sites in the world. The site is on the tentative list of the UNESCO. Image: DAI.

 

Submissions are assessed on behalf of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by the international council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the international Union for the conservation of nature (IUCN). On the basis of this expert evaluation the World Heritage committee then makes its final decision on whether or not nominated sites are to be inscribed on the world heritage list.

 

Obligations

But what does it actually mean when a monument, area or landscape changes its status, is no longer simply a site in a particular country, no longer “belongs” solely to that country, but suddenly becomes the “property” of all mankind? With the altered status comes a change in the state’s obligations, which now undertakes to protect and to preserve that portion of world heritage that is situated on its territory. Article 4 of the UNESCO World Heritage convention declares that each State party recognizes that “the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and cooperation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and technical, which it may be able to obtain”.

Conservation work at the World Heritage site Pergamon. Image: DAI.

 

This is followed by a list of political, legal, financial, and personnel and infrastructure related measures that are considered appropriate for the preservation of cultural heritage for later generations. The main requirements in this catalogue are “to develop scientific and technical studies and research, […] to work out such operating methods as will make the State capable of counteracting the dangers that threaten its cultural or natural heritage [and] to foster the establishment or development of national or regional centres for training in the protection, conservation and presentation of cultural and natural heritage”.
 

In-Depth Analysis

Archaeological research works at the very core of these definitions of world heritage and the catalogue of requirements for its preservation. Using the multi- and interdisciplinary methods described above, it investigates decisive changes in the course of human history: the introduction of agriculture and herding, the emergence of urban centres and complex systems of society, and the formation of symbolic order, which in many cases are the foundations of what still constitutes an important part of our implicit knowledge and thinking. Traces of human activity can be found in spectacular objects like colossal statues or in tiny fragments of papyrus.

 

Archaeological research works at the very core of these definitions of world heritage. Image: DAI.

Architecture presents us with evidence of the past, but the evidence is not always immediately apparent, sometimes only revealing itself in reconstructions. Layer by layer, archaeologists unearth material remains in excavations, and use pile core analyses to create vegetation and climate archives; bones, plant remains and wood yield as much information about people’s way of life and mode of subsistence as ceramic and metal artefacts do. Texts, chiselled in stone, written on papyrus or imprinted in clay, allow all facets of past societies – whether state treaties, epic poetry or everyday accounting – to emerge into view. Research is concerned with understanding the overall context.
 

Site Management and Sustainable Tourism

To ensure the excavated and vulnerable archaeological remains are preserved for future generations and to make both research and sustainable tourism viable at excavation sites, what is required is integral site management that encompasses an archaeological site or a cultural landscape in its entirety. How exactly should the historical remains be prepared for and displayed to tourists? And above all, how can the remains be protected in a way that is sustainable and complies with conservation practice? Whatever the measures taken, research and scientific documentation are essential requirements.

Several German sites funded by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office belong to the World Heritage List. The German Archaeological Institute works towards the preservation and sustainable maintenance of cultural heritage in its host and partner countries in Europe and worldwide. In doing so, it engages in active cultural policy and moreover is often able, through its archaeological work, to contribute towards regional economic development in those countries.

 

Source: Archaeology Worldwide (Pdf)

Image: Lion gate at the World Heritage Hattusha in Turkey. flickr.com

Domus Aurea – Restoring Emperor Nero’s Palace (Italy)

The famous palace complex of the Roman Emperor Nero is being restored  by the Parco archeologico del Colosseo (MIBACT) since 2009. The project is supported by the German Archaeological Institute in Rome.

To understand the story of Domus Aurea, the “Golden House”, one must go back to a summer’s night between the 18th and 19th of July in the year 64 AD. That night, as Tacitus (c. 56 – c. 120 AD), senator and a historian of the Roman Empire, tells us in his annals, a fire broke out in ancient Rome. Raging for nine days the fire reduced nine of the thirteen districts of Rome to ashes and rubble. According to the rumors that spread quickly in Rome, the fire is said to have been laid on the orders of Emperor Nero, to be able to sing from a tower of the downfall of Troy. The persistence of such rumors may be explained by the fact that part of the city was used for the construction of Nero’s new palace complex, Domus Aurea.

 

The palace complex of Domus Aurea

Domus Aurea probably is the most impressive example of Neronian architecture. According to ancient historians, Suetonius and Tacitus, the wide spread complex, included an artificial lake, vineyards, cornfields, pastures and forests, populated with wild game and grazing livestock. We are informed that the buildings “seemed like cities” and offered an imposing view with a 120 feet high statue of Nero standing in the vestibule.

 

 

Most of what has survived belonged to the part of the Domus Aurea, which is located on the side of the Oppian Hill. It is believed, that these 142 rooms belonged to the main building of the complex. The exact dimensions of the building complex are not known, yet. The entire complex, which was not finished at the time of Nero’s death in 68 AD, was rebuilt during the reign of following emperors. After a fire broke out in the residence building in 104 AD the upper floor was levelled and the basement buried under the Baths of Trajan (106-109 AD).

 

Restoration work at Domus Aurea

During the time of Emperor Trajan the basement was filled up and all windows were sealed, to use the area as the base of Trajan’s Baths. Of the chambers added to widen the base, two collapsed in 2010, making immediate restoration measures necessary.

The reason for the collapse was a lack of structural safety, caused by the public park above Domus Aurea and looting. The ruins were used as a source for building material since the Middle Ages. What remained was only the inner part of the wall, the so-called nucleo, which consists of low-quality mortar and bricks. Due to the moisture this exposed nucleo was damaged over the centuries.

 

Collapsed chambers at the base of Trajan’s Baths | © DAI Rome.

 

The first challenge for was to set up and implement a restoration concept that took into account all aspects of the building. In addition to the restoration of the static safety of the building, measures to prevent the ingress of rainwater were implemented. To stop excessive air circulation, which can result in the transport of dust particles and salt efflorescence in the masonry, air locks were installed. Furthermore, the algae infestation had to be reduced and roots, damaging the structure, were diminished. The park area covering Domus Aurea was redesigned in accordance to the restoration concept.

Since November 2014, Domus Aurea is open to guide tours again on the weekend, thanks to the work of Parco archeologico del Colosseo (MIBACT). The measures were funded by the Italian State and the German Archaeological Institute.

 

 

 

Read more:

Restoration of the National Museum in Cherchell (Algeria)

 

Pergamon Resurrected! – New Exhibition on the 3D Reconstructions of an antique city (Turkey)

Digital Cultural Heritage Register (Sudan)

As part of the Cultural Preservation Program of the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) conducts training courses within the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). Additionally a digital register for the archaeological sites and monuments of Sudan is being developed since 2017.

Sudan has a rich archaeological heritage, including large monumental buildings such as pyramids, temples and fortifications. Although archaeological excavations and research projects have been carried out in Sudan since the 19th century, the country has no digital register of its archaeological sites and monuments. This increasingly creates problems for NCAM and the international research community. To protect and explore archaeological sites and important monuments the registration and identification of cultural heritage is essential.
Therefore, trainings were conceptualized and the work on the digital register began. In addition to practical, technical and theoretical foundations, pragmatic approaches of curating analogue and digital data are in focus. Corresponding to local requirements the approach is implemented and applied with the accompanying development of an associated database. The basis of the digital register is formed by data compiled by the digitized archive of Friedrich W. Hinkel. The data is based on 14,000 archaeological sites in Sudan.

 

Foto from the archive of Friedrich Hinkel. Pyramids of Meroe | © DAI.

 

Digital Cultural Heritage – A Sudanese-German Endeavor
In July 2017 a three-week summer school in Berlin was conducted.  Representatives of the NCAM, as well as participants from Tunisia and Palestine attended the program. The basic structure of the register, digitization techniques and the curation of data were discussed during workshops. Finally, the participants developed a plan for the realization of a digital register for the cultural heritage sites of Sudan. In autumn 2017, a two-week stay of DAI employees in Khartoum followed. During their stay the first stages of the jointly developed plan were implemented. Together with their Sudanese colleagues the DAI employees sorted and registered analogue data and in the process set up an archive at NCAM. The development and programming of the digital heritage register for Sudan will be conducted in 2018.
The data collection and digital heritage registers are a relevant issues for the entire North African and Arab region. Therefore, the cooperation was extended to interested antiquity services of other member states of the Arab League.

 

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Image: Workshop for digitalization | © DAI

 

Read More:

The Digital Archive of Friedrich W. Hinkel (Sudan)

New Exhibition “Pyramids of Meroe” (Sudan)

Syrian Heritage Archive Project

Digitisation of northern Thai manuscripts (Thailand)

 

Restoring Glass Negatives in the Center of Documentation in Cairo (Egypt)

Egypt comprises ca. 14,000 objects, mainly silver gelatine glass negatives and acetate sheet film negatives. Since 2002 the German Archaeological Institute Cairo is involved in a restauration and training program. The project aims at helping to secure, safely store, and conserve the glass negatives and at training of local inspectors in order to create local conservation and restauration capacities. The  restoration program is supported by the German Foreign Ministry.

 

The Photographic Archive of the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe at the Citadel in Cairo contains approximately 14,000 photographs. The objects are mainly silver gelatine glass negatives dating into the first half of the 20th century. Only a small part of the archive consists of acetate sheet film negatives and albumen photographs, which were used in the 19th century. To this day the images, showing antiquities, monuments and ancient cities, have not lost any of their fascinating appeal. To store the glass negatives, special wood cabinets were made, presumably 1931. The glass negatives were stored in the boxes in upright position. The improper handling and storage of the panels led to significant damage and contamination such as breaking, silver-mirroring, bacterial attack and insect infestation.

Storage and resulting damages. (© G. Harich-Hamburger).

The Restoration of the Glass Negatives

Between October 2002 and October 2003, the German Archaeological Institute Cairo carried out the first restoration phase. The glass panels were taken from the wooden cabinets and stored in envelopes and boxes especially suited for archiving photographs. The new material was imported from Germany. During the process the existing numbers on the glass plates were compared with the remaining registry book of the Comité and corrected if necessary. The boxes are stored today in newly purchased metal cabinets. However, due to difficulties on-site and significant damage to the panels, further work is needed.

 

Left: Konserving broken glass negatives (© K. Bartels). Right: New storage units in Cairo. (© N. Ahmed)

Trainingprogram in Egypt

In order to complete the restoration of the glass negatives, a second restoration phase was carried out in 2015/2016. The major focus was on the practical training in restoration of the inspectors. After completing the final phase, the team of the citadel is now able to restore almost all the state images on the glass negatives independently. With the restoration of the glass negatives and the training of the inspectors on the citadel, a first step has now been taken. With the help of the trained staff of the Center of Documentation, this important restoration project can now be completed in near future.

 

 

Cooperation: Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs/ Egypt, Center of Documentation, Citadel; Institut Francais d‘Archéologie Orientale du Caire.

Funding: German Foreign Ministry

Project Coordination: Wolfgang Mayer.

Team: N. Ahmed, K. Aue, K. Bartels, S. Falk, S. Heckert

 

 

 

Read more

E-Research report of the German Archaeological Insitute (GER)

Photographic Archive Projects in Sudan

 

 

 

Photo Exhibition in Bergama – Neither in Heaven nor on Earth (Turkey)

A photo exhibition opened in Bergama, presenting photos from the Pergamon excavation and giving insight into the valuable cultural heritage of the city.

The exhibition “Ne Yerde ne gökte – Neither in heaven nor on earth. The inhabitants of Bergama and their cultural heritage: Actors of a complex past “ was opened  in Bergama on May 4 in the cultural center of Bergama. The four-week exhibition was conceived by the Istanbul Department of the DAI and was developed in cooperation with the Municipality of Bergama and other local institutions.

The phrase “neither in heaven nor on earth” goes back to the geographer Katip Celebi, who described the coexistence of antiquity and the present in Bergama during the 17th century. The photo exhibition draws from the extensive collection of the Pergamon excavation. It shows how the lives of the inhabitants of the modern city of Bergama are intertwined in many ways with its history. The photos demonstrate in an impressive way how ancient, medieval and modern living environments are connected to each other.

 

The photo exhibition in BerKM | © DAI.

Sharing Heritage

The exhibition was opened in the presence of the mayor Mehmet Gönenç, chairman of the Cultural Foundation Bergamas, Muammer Esen, the representative of the German Consul General in Izmir, Elke Grabarec, and the longtime photographer of the Pergamon excavation, Elisabeth Steiner. In his opening speech, Mehmet Gönenç mentioned the importance of the work of the German Archaeological Institute and the Pergamon exhibition for the inhabitants of Bergamas. In light of the exhibition, he emphasized that the DAI photo archive in Istanbul is important not only for the documentation of historical buildings, but also for social coexistence in Bergama. In her welcoming remarks, Elke Grabarec said that the exhibition’s aim to promote awareness of Bergama’s cultural heritage reflects a key requirement of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 . The title “Sharing Heritage” points to the high potential of our shared cultural heritage for identification, participation and development.

The exhibition is part of the DAI presentation Entangled History in the course of the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018.

Further information and events can be found here.

Source: DAI

Rousay Island – Threatened Monuments of the Orkney Islands (Scotland)

On the Orkney island of Rousay, a team of the Roman-Germanic Commission explores coastal erosion-threatened monuments, such as the megalithic tomb and the Iron Age Broch of Midhowe and the Viking settlement of Westness.

The convenient location on the Atlantic Ocean and the immediate proximity to the main island have drawn people to this stretch of coast for over 4000 years. Three megalithic tombs, three brochs (round towers), a Viking settlement with a mooring point, burial grounds, as well as the Norman Skaill House and its church bear witness to a long history of settlement.
All these well-known monuments on the coast are endangered by the coastal erosion and partially destroyed already. But what else is there in the ground that gets lost undocumented in a further destruction of the coastal landscape?
A large number of monuments will not be preserved. Experts estimate that some of them will be irretrievably lost within a few years. Therefore, documentation and research conducted by the Romano-Germanic Commission (RGK), together with the partners of the University of Highlands and Islands (Kirkwall), are all the more important in preserving as much information as possible about the archaeological structures.

 

 

New Cooperation to Research and Protect the Cultural Heritage of the Orkney’s

The Midhowe Broch, Rousay, provided the perfect backdrop for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Archaeological Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI, Kirkwall) and the Romano-Germanic Commission (RGK, Frankfurt) of the German Archaeological Institute. In the presence of Orkney Island Council representative Harvey Johnston, First Director of the RGK Prof. Eszter Bánffy and Prof. Jane Downes (UHI) sealed their intention to carry out joint research projects.

The newly forged alliance will hopefully not only give us more insight into the archaeology of the island but help to protect the valuable cultural heritage of the Orkney Islands.

 

Source: DAI Press Release (GER)

Image: Midhowe Broch, Rousay (© DAI )

Meeting of the TransArea Network Africa – Excavation and Conservation Projects (Egypt)

The TransArea Network Africa meets again for network strengthening and capacity building.  During the meeting in April TANA members presented their work. Among otherst the important work of a rescue project, conducted to protect the temple complex of Philae from flooding, was demonstrated on-site.

 

The TransArea Network Africa  (TANA) was founded in 2014 with the intention to not only connect the individual DAI projects located within Africa but to overall strengthen the field of Archaeology on the African continent. Since initiation, regular meetings have taken place in order to ensure a successful implementation. This year, TANA met in Aswan, Egypt.

Day one of the meeting kicked off with presentations taking place in the very fascinating Nubian Museum. After a brief welcoming, Egyptian colleagues and TANA members had the opportunity to introduce their projects. A simultaneous interpreter translated the presentations from English to Arabic and thus enabled the participation of the local population.

Day two and three focused on the regional archaeology. A field trip to the temple complex of Philae demonstrated the remarkable work of a rescue project conducted in order to preserve the Temple of Isis and others from the flooding of the island. As presented by the Egyptian colleague, Shamiaa Magdy Eid, the temple complex of Philae was only one of many to be disassembled and re-erected due to the building of the Aswan High Dam. The remains of early rescue measures, indicating the original site of the temple, are still visible and can be seen not far from the new location. The day was rounded off by a tour of the excavations of the Elephantine. After giving an overview of the history of the Elephantine and its excavations, Johanna Sigl of the DAI Cairo Department passionately introduced her current project “Realities of Life” which focusses on the actual life conditions of the settlement during the Middle Kingdom.

 

Johanna Sigle introducing her project at Elefantine | © DAI.

 

The excursions on day three led the group to Gebel Silsila West where the directing Egyptian archaeologist, Ahmed Said, gave the TANA members an exclusive tour of the shrine and quarry. The group subsequently visited Edfu. The director of the DAI Cairo Department, Stephan Seidlmayer, provided insight into the significance and context of the temple.

The Aswan Meeting also marked a very important milestone within our e-learning project (MOOCs). After a long time of preliminary work, mostly conducted by Sofia Fonseca, we recorded some interviews of TANA members and are now looking forward to uploading the first contributions.

Thanks to the joint effort between the DAI Berlin Head Office, DAI KAAK, DAI Cairo Department, and our Egyptian partners from the Nubian Museum in Aswan and the Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt, TANA was able to host a successful meeting and ambitiously looks towards the future in which TANA continues moving forward towards the implementation of its goals.

 

 

Image: TANA-Group at Philae | © DAI.

Source: DAI Press release