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 ‘Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme’, or simply ‘Iraq 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 became a pilot project for the Cultural Protection Fund, builds 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 or recently occupied by Daesh, are returned to secure governmental control. The programme, undertaken first in the UK and then on two specially selected archaeological sites in safe areas of Iraq, delivers state of the art training in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork, from geophysical and geomatic surveying and documentation, to complex excavation methodology. The training provides the 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 two to three months at the British Museum, followed by two to three months in the field in Iraq.

The scheme operates in six-month cycles, with each group of six to eight participants spending two to three months at the British Museum, followed by two to 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 the November; the second and third groups completed their training in 2017 and the fourth group is due to arrive in the UK in April 2018.

Integral to the overall training programme is its second half, 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. It is important to understand that these two fieldwork projects are not ‘training excavations’ as such, but are fully developed, scientific excavations at which our Iraqi participants are offered instruction in the detailed techniques of field archaeology. In this respect, the results of the initial seasons at both sites have been highly encouraging.

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 ‘graduates’ from our first group has been appointed by the Iraqi State Board to lead the assessment of the site of Nimrud, recently released from Daesh control, and a graduate of our second group has been made Director of Mosul Museum. In addition, another participant has been appointed Director of Anbar province and one has recently published a book on northern Mesopotamia.