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Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies pres.

EVENT CANCELLED [CMENAS Colloquium Series. Trafficking Cuneiform: Valuing the Past over the Present?]

EVENT CANCELLED [Neil Brodie, Senior Research Fellow, Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa, Oxford University]

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THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER-RELATED CIRCUMSTANCES


The 2019 CMENAS Colloquium Series theme is “Migration in the Islamicate World.”
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Since the 1991 Gulf War, artifacts looted from archaeological sites and museums in Iraq have been sold openly on the international market. Most in-demand have been cuneiform-inscribed objects – the material texts of Iraqi prehistory. Many thousands of these cuneiform objects have entered private collections in North America, Europe and beyond, where their texts are being studied and published by university-based scholars. These scholars have identified texts from what were previously unknown and presently unlocated sites – from intact archives now broken up and dispersed on the market. Ethical challenges to the scholarly reception of trafficked cuneiform objects are deflected with what can be construed as orientalist arguments of rescue, preservation, and scholarship. While ‘western’ scholarship has certainly benefited from this unexpected windfall of ‘recently appeared’ texts, the damage suffered by Iraqi archaeological heritage and the associated loss to Iraqi intellectual and cultural life remain to be assessed. This talk will offer an up-to-date assessment of the situation and engage with the cultural, legal and ethical issues raised by this large-scale movement of cuneiform objects out of Iraq.

Neil Brodie is Senior Research Fellow on the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology. He has published widely on issues concerning the market in trafficked cultural objects, with more than fifty papers and book chapters devoted to the subject. Most recently he has co-authored Trafficking Culture: New Directions in Researching the Global Market in Illicit Antiquities (2019, Routledge). Since 2017, he has been working with the Lebanese NGO Biladi and officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Culture towards recovering looted and trafficked objects.

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