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.

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)