Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WAC6 Cypriot cultural heritage ethics abstract

"Cultural heritage ethics in a divided Cyprus", the paper I submitted for the 6th World Archaeological Congress (WAC6), in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, from the 29th of June until the 4th of July 2008, has just been provisionally accepted.

The provisional abstract reads:
Between 1955 and 1959 and again between 1963 and 1974, archaeological excavation and survey in Cyprus was periodically interrupted by intercommunal violence and it was massively disrupted by the war of 1974; during these years and since, Cypriot communities' cultural heritage has been damaged and destroyed through malice and neglect. This paper will explore archaeologists' and their sites' roles in the conflict and how the conflict has influenced the development of archaeology on the island.(1)
[Clarification of abstract added on the 23rd of March 2008.]

As it has been difficult to research this, so it is difficult to write and talk about it. The abstract's quite general, partly because I'm still trying to gather data, partly because I don't know what I can use of the information I already have and partly because I don't know how to use the information I know I can. Still, I will gradually try to produce a refined (possibly revised) abstract here and, if I don't have to withdraw my submission (because I can't create a paper worth hearing), I will post it here once it's written.

The disturbance of archaeological work because of intercommunal conflict and war is part of the context of the current problems, but detailing the disturbances of 1955-1974 is only collating what's already in the public record, so I'm not going to examine that.

Others have already explored the politics of archaeological interpretation in Cyprus, in 'constructing an archaeological narrative: the Hellenization of Cyprus', 'colonialist interpretations of the Cyprian goddess [Aphrodite]' and 'manipulation of Roman archaeology in politically fractured landscapes'; I'm not a period specialist and, besides, there are already enough politics involved in the ethical dilemmas I'm trying to explore.

I could produce a narrative account of some of the twists and turns in the development of archaeology, from the incidental exclusion of the Turkish Cypriot community from archaeology by Hellenophile British colonialists(2) after 1878, to the Greek Cypriot archaeological community's interference with rescue archaeology(3) and Turkish businesses' and the Turkish military's destruction of archaeological sites(4)(5) in the occupied areas since 1974; however, that would either be a necessarily but unenlightening list of events or a very partial selection of vignettes from them.

Moreover, I would like to present my own data, rather than my narration of other people's, but I fear that Greek Cypriot locals' overwhelming refusal to talk or insistence upon lying to me would actually reflect badly upon me. I fear that, if I talk about Turkish settlers' prevention of Turkish Cypriot nationalists' destruction of Greek Cypriot churches, I will be dismissed as a 'Turkish friend [τουρκόφιλος]' and what I consider to be fascinating information will be ignored.

I would like to talk about the different excavations that have been carried out in the occupied areas of Cyprus and the different reactions they have elicited from the southern Cypriot and international archaeological communities, but the information I've got is so piecemeal and partial I don't know which parts to believe or how to construct the whole from those parts.

Maybe I will talk about the locals' treatments of cultural heritage and, obliquely (through one or two anonymised case studies), their influence upon archaeologists and their work. If any readers have requests that would save me from deciding for myself...!

[Original post continued.]

WAC6 sessions relevant to my work or interesting to me include:There's even one session on "socio-legal constructions of archaeological heritage", but I think it's focusing on indigeneity and repatriation, rather than the aspects of socio-legal studies directly relevant to my research, like the problems of the ownership of religious properties in northern Cyprus that prevented the establishment of the European Foundation for the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus in 1991, which would have been a non-partisan international organisation to care for cultural heritage across the island.

The Greek Cypriot-administered Republic of Cyprus claimed in 2003 to have 'adopt[ed] the proposal' (for an equivalent 'Foundation for the Protection and Preservation of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Cyprus' in 2002), but the Republic of Cyprus said that 'emphasis will be given to the maintenance of Turkish Cypriot sites (e.g. mosques, cemeteries) in the Government-controlled area and of churches, cemeteries and archaeological and other sites of the island’s cultural heritage in the occupied area' and the condition of cultural heritage on the island demonstrates that that clearly hasn't happened.

The WAC Inter-Congress on "overcoming structural violence" in Ramallah from the 25th until the 31st of October 2008 looks promising, too, examining economics, scholarship, communication and reconciliation:
Economics: How do economic forces create or perpetuate systems of structural violence, today and in the past? What economic value is attached to archaeological resources, and what is the impact on cultural heritage of looting, illicit excavation and the legal and illegal sale of antiquities? Why are particular sites selected for preservation and protection as ‘world cultural heritage sites'?

Scholarship: How do exclusionary academic discourses develop? What are the limitations on educational possibilities? How do state policies and politics exclude and restrict research, scholarship and academic collaboration?

Communication: What limitations arise through the overwhelming dominance of English? What is the impact of linguistic exclusion in the academic discourse? How do structures serve to prevent the free exchange of ideas?

Reconciliation: What are the possible remedies to structural violence through archaeological practice and/or other means? How can scholars work to reduce structures of violence?
  1. Other WAC6 abstracts already online include Colleen Morgan's "get real: a manifesto for virtual reality in archaeology" and "building archaeological narratives with new media" (and Alice Gorman's "prelude to space archaeology", which is about 100km away from my own research interests, but shows how many archaeologies are going to get explored). All the authors and titles are on WAC6's provisional list of accepted papers.
  2. Şevketoğlu, 2000a: 121-123. Şevketoğlu, M. 2000a: Archaeological field survey of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement sites in Kyrenia district, north Cyprus. Oxford: Archaeopress.
  3. Şevketoğlu, 2000b: 53. Şevketoğlu, M. 2000b: "The university involvements in cultural heritage in North Cyprus". In Forum UNESCO (Ed.). University and heritage: A living world heritage - the shared ethical responsibilities of universities, 52-56. Paris: UNESCO.
  4. Yaşin, M. 1982: "Perishing Cyprus". Olay, 26th April-17th May. Available at:
  5. Bahceli, S. 2005: "Military bulldoze 8,000-year-old Karpas site". Cyprus Mail, 15th September. Available at:

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