The Hague, 21 May 2019 – The project “Stewards of Cultural Heritage” was announced by the European Commission and Europa Nostra as one of the winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2019. The awards are Europe’s most prestigious honour in the field, funded by the Creative Europe programme.
by Judith Brauner Amarilla (German Embassy in Asunción)
The Aché are an indigenous people living in Paraguay. Their cultural heritage consists of stories and traditions passed on orally which today are only known to a few tribal elders. The filming of documentaries and the creation of a virtual museum made it possible to record them and make them available to the Aché themselves, as well as to schools and the general public.
There are around 120,000 indigenous people living in Paraguay, who belong to 19 tribes. The indigenous population is divided into five different language groups, including the Guaraní language, which is Paraguay’s second official language. The Aché are a minority among the indigenous population. They currently number just under 1900 and live in seven groups. The people’s recent history is dramatic: until the 1970s, the Aché were hunted and sold as slaves. There was a slave market in southern Paraguay as recently as 1967.
In 1972, the German ethnologist Mark Münzel wrote about the genocide of the Aché in a publication, drawing international attention to this tragedy. The persecution of the Aché was finally stopped following international pressure. By that point, however, the people had already been torn apart and was scattered across different continents. The Aché were on the verge of extinction. Many elders were kidnapped and did not return to their groups until many years later. Because the Aché were no longer living together, it was not possible to pass on important parts of their culture to following generations in the oral tradition.
The Aché are aware of this situation and are seeking ways to preserve their culture. This is why the memories of the tribal elders were documented in three films as well as in a virtual museum. It has thus been made possible for the old stories and traditions, as well as the people’s recent history, to be preserved for coming generations and to make all of this accessible to them.
The team of the NGO Madre Tierra spent several weeks with the Aché group in Ypetimi filming the stories of the elders with a camera crew. They spoke about their lives in the forest, their traditions and customs, about the hunting down of adults and children and their later lives in exile far away from their tribe.
The oral nature of Aché culture has some unique features which are reflected in the documentaries. One typical feature is the continual repetition of single sentences, often in singing tones. The Aché speak very emotionally about their memories of life in the forest and the later persecution. Above all, the documentaries show this face of another culture. Traditional handicrafts are presented while the elders are telling their stories. Together with the elders, other tribe members made panniers, vessels and other everyday objects for the museum. The NGO Madre Tierra has been focusing on work with indigenous peoples since 2003.
With financial support from the German Embassy, a computer room was set up in the school in Ypetimi in 2016. This enabled indigenous people to use technology to preserve their own culture. The idea of cooperation within the framework of cultural preservation came from this small-scale measure. The virtual museum illustrating the Aché’s way of life is to be further developed and completed in future by members of the community.
Title image: Chevugi, 63, drawing his bow. The children and young people became interested in the elders’ handicrafts and traditions as a result of the filming | © Archivo de la Asociación Madre Tierra/ Patricia Ayala.
Worlds of Culture. Foreign Policy for Cultural Heritage. 2018
Ten days until the UNESCO Committee meets again to decide on the new World Heritage list. Let’s take a look back and revisit the point in time, when the idea of World Heritage was born. What does the Egyptian temples of Abu Simbel have to do with it?
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:
Find out more about events of Sharing Heritage – European Heritage Year 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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
The civil war in Syria poses an acute threat to the country’s cultural heritage. Thoughtless and wilful destruction and robberies are documented daily, and it is not rare for World Heritage sites to be affected. The Syrian Heritage Archive Project is designed to counter the loss of these unique historical treasures.
Syria has an outstanding, millennia-old cultural heritage. The country’s social fabric is still characterised by extraordinary ethnic and religious diversity. The cultural archive of collective memory is of vital importance not only for Syria but for the whole of humanity. This is precisely why cultural sites in Syria were among the first to be recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. To counter the risk of losing for ever entire cultural landscapes with their archaeological and historic monuments, the Syrian Heritage Archive Project was launched in 2013 with funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office. Two German academic institutions with many years of experience of research in and into Syria – the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin – are playing their part in the internationally coordinated efforts to preserve Syria’s cultural heritage.
Many institutions around the world hold comprehensive analogue documentation on Syria’s archaeological and historic sites and monuments generated over decades of joint research activity in Syria. However, there is as yet no adequate digital record of this information, which is why the project seeks to compile a digital record of the archaeological research data available in Germany. These include a host of texts, plans and images relating to almost all the country’s major ruins and historic old towns. The aim is to create a solid database for a digital register of cultural sites which will, for instance, be the basis for monitoring with regard to the illegal trade in antiquities, and which will be crucial for the post-war reconstruction of destroyed archaeological sites and historic monuments. Around 127,000 data sets of country-specific material were collated in the 2013 and 2014 project phases. This enormous source of information from very different media is being archived using various iDAI. welt data processing systems, collated in a structured form as a treasure trove of information on Syria’s cultural heritage and prepared for later use.
Project: Dr. Karin Bartl, Dr. Franziska Bloch, German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Orient Department. In cooperation with the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin
A digital map of Aleppo's ancient city centre is going to help to rebuild what was once one of the biggest trading hubs in the Middle East.
The pictures of a ruined city that was once one of the Middle East's major trading hubs have gone around the world. Researchers from BTU Cottbus–Senftenberg are working on concepts for the rebuilding of this city. The potential basis for the future rebuilding plans is a detailed digital map of Aleppo's ancient city centre.
Civil war has raged in Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city and one of the oldest permanently occupied human settlements in the world, for five years. Before the conflict, this was a city of 2.5 million people. Today, more than half of its population has fled. In the course of the civil war, much of the city, especially its ancient city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, has been heavily damaged.
The researchers headed by project manager Christoph Wessling are facing a Sisyphean task. Around 20 gigabytes of data have to be systemised. Until shortly before the civil war broke out, the university's urban planners and architects were involved in the socially sensitive renovation and revival of the ancient city centre, which was threatened by decay and poverty. In 2004, the German-Syrian project, which was funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit with €20 million, won a Harvard University Graduate School of Design urban planning award. The data collected at the time now comes in useful as it will make it possible to reconstruct the city. The researchers are combining roads, pavements, public spaces with fountains, statues or gardens and the floor plans of former buildings from 2011 digitally, which will make a reconstruction possible.
The aim is that in future, a tap on the digital map of the ancient city centre using a tablet computer or a mobile phone will reveal all of the building plans, photographs and descriptions for a particular location. Buildings and other city structures that are currently buried underneath the ruins will become visible. Where piles of rubble are all that is left today, the map shows the foundations, roads, lanes and plot structures that still exist underneath.
"These structures are the basis for the UNESCO World Heritage Site classification. With this project, we want to raise the general awareness of the rebuilding work that will be needed once the conflict is over, and prevent undesirable urban development that may ignore these important basic structures," says Prof. Heinz Nagler, the head of the Urban Planning and Design department. "Our aim is to create a qualified planning basis for the rebuilding of the city. Future individual construction projects can be integrated into this overall picture to then be evaluated accordingly. We are thereby making a major contribution towards preventing the potentially insensitive large-scale renovation of Aleppo's ancient city centre after the civil war, and are making a critical reconstruction process possible that also takes the interests of the city's inhabitants into account", summarises Prof. Dr. Klaus Rheidt, the head of the Building History department.
The researchers hope that this map will be completed by the end of the year, and can then be made available to the Syrian Heritage Archive at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). However, the map could also be used by Aleppo's city council, the city's future urban development planners, potential investors, decision-makers and urban designers, researchers, journalists, writers and the interested public as a basis for the classification and evaluation of future projects.
The project is part of a pilot project entitled "Stunde Null: A Future for the Time after the Crisis", which addresses the issue of the rebuilding of Syria after the war. It will be the first project to be carried out within the scope of the Archaeological Heritage Network, which focuses on the conservation of cultural heritage. The network and the project receive funding from the German Federal Foreign Office. The BTU subproject will receive funding amounting to €75,000 until December 2016. An extension is planned.
Project and Source: BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg