Session I: Salvage Archaeology and Field Conservation

 Human bones litter the surface near a looted grave

Human bones litter the surface near a looted grave

 The stone coffin of a looted grave is left open after the thieves depart

The stone coffin of a looted grave is left open after the thieves depart

 

Dates: June 17 - July 7, 2019

Fee: $2,900 USD (For support in applying for external funding, please contact us.)

APPLICATION

Skills: archaeological survey; drones and GIS; basic artifact cataloging and conservation; bioarchaeological analysis

Logistics: We will camp near several known looted cemeteries, but may travel from time to time to survey and monitor areas farther afield. Participants should bring their own tent and camping equipment. Water may be purified from nearby rivers and lakes. Project cooks will prepare all meals. 

Description: The illegal looting of ancient burial sites has become a big problem in Northern Mongolia. During the summers of 2017-18, the NOMAD Science team witnessed 100’s of instances of new looting, including the complete destruction of several medieval cemeteries- bits of metal and wood artifacts, human bones, and clothing fragments were strewn on the surface and would not survive long without our intervention. Thieves get away with priceless cultural heritage objects that will likely never be recovered, while completely disrespecting the final resting places of ancient people. Archaeologists are concerned because looting permanently destroys our ability to continue answering research questions for the benefit of humankind. Mongolia has created strong anti-looting laws supporting cultural heritage preservation, but the vast areas of the countryside, low population density and economic challenges make enforcement problematic.  Though no systematic monitoring has been conducted, some of the looting may in fact be inspired by our own research activities. Therefore, NOMAD Science will spend Session I in the summer of 2019 solely investigating and combating looting activities in the region where our regular fieldwork is conducted. We intend to do so through monitoring, research, and salvage efforts.


 Human bones left in a recently looted grave

Human bones left in a recently looted grave

This approach will provide us with the information necessary to combat looting activities related to antiquities trafficking in northern Mongolia and will save irreplaceable cultural heritage resources that are currently endangered. These archaeological sites are non-renewable – there will never be another Neolithic site made in the world – and contain an enormous amount of information that might help us to understand our human past, adaptation to climate change and economic shifts, the origins of complex political and social organization, and so much more. Archaeologists must work hard to study not only the lives of ancient peoples, but also how they impact people today in order to prevent looting.

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