Iraq Scheme



More about the Iraq Scheme

Training in the UK 
Training in Iraq: Darband-i Rania Project 
Training in Iraq: Tello - Ancient Girsu 


Iraq Scheme Team

Director: Jonathan Tubb
Deputy Director: St John Simpson
Executive Project Support: Angela Grimshaw
Project Manager: Megan Bristow
Project Coordinator: Ruth Stone
Lead Archaeologist: John MacGinnis
Lead Archaeologist: Sebastien Rey

In 2015, in response to the appalling destruction by Daesh (also known as so-called Islamic State, ISIS or IS) of heritage sites in Iraq and Syria, the British Museum developed a scheme which, in the face of frustration and outrage, could offer something positive and constructive. The scheme received the support of the UK government, and the Museum was granted £2.9m over five years of Official Development Assistance (ODA) through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The scheme, which has become a pilot project for the Cultural Protection Fund, has been to design, develop and deliver a programme to build capacity in the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage by training 50 of its staff in a wide variety of sophisticated techniques of retrieval and rescue archaeology.

The four-year programme prepares the State Board for the aftermath of destruction - the day when areas of the country, currently occupied by Daesh, are returned to secure governmental control. The training, undertaken both in the UK and on specially selected archaeological sites in safe areas of Iraq, is intended to provide participants with the expertise and skills they need to face the challenges of documenting and stabilising severely disrupted and damaged heritage sites in preparation for potential reconstruction.

Called the ‘Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme’, or simply the ‘Iraq Scheme’, the programme operates in six-month cycles, with each group of six to eight participants spending three months at the British Museum, followed by three months in the field in Iraq.

The first group of participants arrived at the Museum in May 2016 and completed their field training in Iraq in November; the second group arrived in January 2017.

The UK- based part of the programme, largely undertaken at the British Museum, introduces the participants to the challenges facing cultural heritage, legal aspects of cultural heritage protection and the significance and value of heritage conventions in combating illicit trade of antiquities.

Integral to the overall training programme is the fieldwork component, during which the participants have the opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in theory. The participants choose between two sites in Iraq – Tello (ancient Girsu), a well-known and important Sumerian site in the South, and Darband-i Rania, a previously unexplored cluster of closely related sites in the Sulaimaniya province of Iraqi Kurdistan. These two sites will provide the fieldwork venues for the duration of the scheme.

Both excavation projects have provided, and will continue to provide, a wealth of experience for the participants. As a measure of the impact that the scheme has already made, one of the 2016 ‘graduates’ has been appointed by the Iraqi State Board to lead the assessment of the site of Nimrud, recently released from Daesh control.