Palestine

Fieldwork: community survey at Tell Balata, Palestine

Hello again! As you might remember, for last year’s Day of Archaeology I wrote a blog on my fieldwork in Southern Germany, as part of the European NEARCH project and as part of my PhD Research at the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University. This year’s blog entry comes from the same project and is included, partly, in my PhD Research as well. Therefore, I will not include the results of the fieldwork but instead focus on the practicalities of doing a community survey and, perhaps more importantly, the fun one can when have doing fieldwork in a foreign country.

During the summer of last year, in August, a party of four, including yours truly, departed from Schiphol Amsterdam. Their destination? An old town called Balata, which is situated within one of the largest cities in the West Bank: Nablus. Within that old town, an even older town once stood proud between the mountains Gerizim and Ebal, functioning as a cultureal hotspot and trade hub directing traffic from east to west. Identified as the ancient city of Shechem, archaeological remains date back as far as the 4th millenium BC: The Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages. During the decades that followed, the city collapsed multiple times and its remaining ruins formed a small hill: a so-called ‘tell’. Some of those ruins are still visible today; the park is open for visitors and has a website as well. Together with the old town of Nablus, the park is listed on the UNESCO tentative list since 2012, in preparation for its inclusion as World Heritage.

View on the East Gate at the Tell Balata Archaeologicl Park

View on the East Gate at the Tell Balata Archaeological Park

Within the NEARCH project, a team of specialists from various European countries are investigating the effects of World Heritage inscription on the local communities living on, or near those inscribed sites. Because the Faculty of Archaeology has a long running relationship with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities – MOTA-DACH, a plan was proposed to, together with the local authorities there, perform a pilot-study on the possible effects of World Heritage inscription. Both the specialists within the team as well as the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities agreed and a fieldwork project was prepared for August 2015 for Tell Balata.

This was the first research project within NEARCH to focus on those effects, so a new and commensurable survey needed to be created. This was done based on theories and methodologies from the field of social impact analysis within the cultural heritage sector. Inspiration for creating the list of questions came, for example, from ‘Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participating in the Arts’, a book written by François Matarasso in 1997. Within this study, Matarasso lists a large number of indicators, or topics which can be measured, under 6 different themes connected to social impact, such as social cohesion, personal development and local image and identity. However, for this survey questions about the impact of World Heritage inscription and specific questions about the daily use of the Tell needed to be included as well. For example, questions such as ‘how often do you visit the site?’, ‘do you feel connected to the site?’ and ‘Do you experience positive effects from the park for the neighbourhood?’ were included. The final questionnaire was translated into Arabic since the plan was to venture into the neighbourhood ourselves, with the help of a local volunteer acting as translator.

To perform the survey as best as we could – aiming at a high number of response but also at a high quality of those responses, we split into four groups of two – each researcher having his or her own translator hailing from Balata itself or from Nablus. We then ventured into the surrounding area of the tell and performed the surveys with the local community members, who were often very willing to help and offered us more Arabic coffee and tea than we could ever drink. The responses to the questions were very helpful to get an insight into the social and economic impact and often revealed interesting information on people’s relation to the archaeological site. There were for instance multiple older people who still remembered helping to excavate at the site during the 70’s and 80’s. Younger interviewees mostly know the site as a place to relax, walk through or play football. Being in the Palestine for the first time in my life, the fieldwork made a huge impact on me. I vividly recall the first day of the fieldwork, when I was invited to a birthday celebration party of 2 siblings of a very large family. This resulted in me having pleasant talks with about a dozen family members – almost all at once – while eating delicious foods and drinking excellent coffee. They were overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable (and proved to be a rich source for survey responses as well); I had great fun, but was also terribly exhausted at the end of that day from all the impressions!

The four areas we surveyd.

The four areas surveyed

By the end of the fieldwork, the four of us had gathered more than 200 survey responses from 4 different areas of the old town, an incredible result thanks in no small part to the translators who not only translated for us the responses to the questions, but also helped us to get accustomed to local traditions, culture and the surroundings. The results from these surveys are currently being researched by the Faculty of Archaeology and will be published next year, but a teaser will of course be published on the Day of Archaeology’s 2017 edition, so keep an eye out for that!

Ma’a Salama!

Digging on the Web

On this “Day of Archaeology”, I’m busy preparing to head off to the field (in sunny Tuscany (!!)), square away some data, and finish work on some tech consulting.  That last bit is a clue that I’m not really a “normal archaeologist”. Actually, I’ve never met an archaeologist that I’d consider normal –  which is what attracted me to this field in first place. But even among archaeologists, I’m something of an odd-ball.

I have a background in Near Eastern archaeology, and did my dissertation research looking at interactions between Egypt and the Levant (modern Israel, Palestine, Lebanon) in the Early Bronze Age. But for various reasons, both personal and professional, I shifted gears toward the digital side of archaeology, co-founded a nonprofit with my wife (and boss!), and for the past 10 years, I’ve loved almost every minute of my work day. Except writing grant proposals (but there are some necessary evils in all work).

My research and professional interests focus on archaeological data, and much less on digging and field work for myself. This focus means I have a very different professional network, set of collaborators, and work life. Though I work closely with other archaeological professionals, I’m also heavily engaged with folks well outside the discipline, including Web and information scientists, digital librarians and archivists, technology companies, “digital humanists”, and researchers in scholarly communications.

I keep such odd company because I’m really interested in improving the way archaeologists communicate and share their research. Archaeology is intensely multidisciplinary and collaborative. It involves inputs from all sorts of different sciences, and many archaeologists work together in large teams. Sharing the results of all this research needs to reflect the collaborative nature of the field, and it needs to speak with people in other disciplines and walks of life. That’s why I’m so interested in making it archaeological data more open, easier to share, and easier to reuse.

My primary project is Open Context. It’s a system for publishing archaeological data, openly, on the Web, for all to browse and reuse. On this “Day of Archaeology”, I’m busy indexing tens of thousands of detailed records of archaeological contexts, objects, bones, and other material from Kenan Tepe, a major excavation in Turkey led by Bradley Parker. This collection represents the monumental effort of almost 10 years of field work. You can browse around its photo archives and see many thousands of pictures, mainly of dirt. Though it is free to access and use, the data are priceless. Excavation is a destructive process, and the documentation describing such excavations will be the only record available to revisit and re-analyze excavation results. That’s why comprehensive publishing with platforms like Open Context, as well as archiving with digital repositories like tDAR, the ADS, or the CDL is so important.

As this blog post should make clear, I love working with the Web. And what I like most about it is that I work with a growing and vibrant community of like minded people who want to see more from archaeology than costly journal articles read by a narrow few. The developers of ARK, Portable Antiquities, all the collaborators of Pelagios, and the bottom-up group linking archaeological data, are all hugely talented and make my work life rewarding and fun. All this makes archaeology (for me) as much about community and the future as it is about the past.

British Museum International Training Programme : Facebook Group

The British Museum International training Programe  (ITP) , is a six week course arranged with several UK museums, in museology, art galleries. for experts, archaeologist and all students around the world.

Most Participants come from different parts of the world From :Afghanistan, Brazil China , Egypt, Ghana, India ,Iran , Iraq, Kenya, ,Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Palestine , South Africa ,Sudan, Turkey, UAE and Uganda.

However, during the ICTP 2009, a facebook group (ICTP) has been launched to keep communication between ICTP participants, BM staff, and collegeus from other participant Museums. The group gives its members the chance to share their news through posting on group wall, and uploading their photos on the group. The ICTP facebook group has an international environment, with its 84  members from more than 16 countries, sharing different cultures and languages, but all has same interests in Museum Studies, Archaeology, and history…etc. Moreover, the group celebrated all kinds of events social and professional.

The group has been developed well over the past months, and it starts to become an excellent communication link between participants and a gathering point to all members. It also started a self introduction of itself towards further participants. For the first time, the group had sent welcoming PowerPoint slides before the beginning of the programme to both ICTP  participants of 2010, and 2011 and plan to send it Annually .

The group also developed and now has an offical e-mail: BMITP@groups.facebook.com

where you can e-mail the group, and all of your comments will be automatically posted on the group wall.

We will be very happy, to see you on our group, to participate and share with us your experience in Archaeology, Museology, Galleries, and any related subject. : This is our link on facebook : https://www.facebook.com/groups/BMITP/

 

Its our pleasure to have you in our goup 🙂 Your Always welcome !!!

Regards,

Haytham Dieck

BM-ICTP facebook Administrator

Bethlehem Nomination File

Bethlehem Nomination File “Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route” was a special project to Palestine in general and Bethlehem in specific. Bethlehem was the first city nominated in the Palestinian territories to the UNESCO world heritage list, and hoping that this process would include more heritage sites including, Ancient Jericho (Tell El Sultan, The religious routes in the holy land, Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans …etc

The process in getting Bethlehem accepted as a world heritage site will take time till next year July 2012, where it will be voted through the world heritage Committee. However, inscribing Bethlehem at the UNESCO list should happen a long time ago, but due to political tensions between Palestinians and Israelis’ the inscribing was held backwards several time.

The Nominations file was a big chance for Palestinians to demonstrate their outstanding culture heritage that was damaged during Israeli’s occupations, especially the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem in 2002 and surrounding Church of Nativity for 40 days. Israel had bombarded the church more than one time which caused damages to it that could be seen today.

The Nomination file was prepared by Center for Culture Heritage Preservation , Bethlehem (CCHP) in corporation with, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Bethlehem Municipality and UNESCO office in Ramallah. It consists of nine parts; each one of them deals with a specific matter.

They are as follow:

  1. Identification of Property
  2. Description
  3. Justification for Inscription
  4. State of Conservation and Factors Affecting the property.
  5. Protection and Management of the Property.
  6. Monitoring
  7. Documentation
  8. Contact Information of Responsible Authorities
  9. 9. Signature on behalf of the State Party

My job was mainly focused at the second chapter “Description” I’ve worked as a researcher in (CCHP) in the project helping the team in the historical and archaeological perspective of the nativity church.I would like here to thanks both coordinator of the project, Arch. Nada Al Atrash from CCHP, and my friend Geroge Al Ama (from CCHP) for their fantastic and outstanding work in the project, where it push forward the Nomination file to its final stages.

Thanks you very much!

 

I hope you have enjoy it

Regards, Haytham Dieck