A Few Words About Las Vegas

Sin City. Gambling Capital of the World. The city that never sleeps. These are some of the nicknames that are often used when referring to Las Vegas. And not without a reason.  With its seemingly endless chain of casinos and options for adult entertainment, there seems to be no better way to describe this place. Yet there is so much more to Las Vegas than the classical stereotype of a party town with bleeping lights and all. The city holds a special place in my heart.

miragesecret
Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden

My husband and I visited the Las Vegas twice. Back in the days, it was just two of us and a tiny suitcase. No toys or strollers and certainly no oversize baggage.  Both times, we were amazed by the beautiful desert landscape, local history, and vibrant art scene on the Strip and beyond. In fact, we became so fascinated with the region that we wanted to show it our daughter many years later when new responsibilities came into picture, but memories of good, old, carefree days were still fresh in our minds. This last winter, we had a few Las Vegas hotels in mind for our upcoming spring vacation (off-Strip, family friendly, and with a kitchen of course). We had plans to visit Sigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden, a dolphin/big cat sanctuary located a walking distance from Mandala Bay. I was also considering taking our little one to the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, the Springs Preserve, and a few other less-known attractions in the city. Although we ended up travelling elsewhere, the hope to visit Las Vegas as a family remained.

There is no need to mention that reading the news this Monday  broke my heart. Violence seems to be everywhere nowadays, but you still don’t expect something that horrible to happen in a place like the Strip. After recalling all the positive memories associated with Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, I felt compelled to write this post. I wanted to tell the truth about travelling to Nevada. Hopefully, it will help the readers look at Las Vegas in a new light and rediscover the true colors of the city and the region.

Arts Scene

ne-yo-performs-grammy-nominations-concert-live
Ne-Yo performing at the Grammy nominations concert

As most of us probably already know, Las Vegas is famous for a vibrant art scene. In fact, its entertainment scene is so rich and diverse that the “Sin City” image emblazoned in our minds from movies and media is only a tiny fraction of what the city actually represents. Every month, countless artists from all backgrounds and walks of life flock to Las Vegas in hopes of creating memorable experience for locals and visitors . Rock, pop, R&B, ethnic, country music, circus, theater—you name it!  In fact it was by reading about the deadly mass shooting that I got to learn about Jason Aldean. I ended up looking him on YouTube and was blown away by his music. I would totally go to his concert.

The state of Nevada itself is a home place to many artists of varying genres, including rock, punk, gospel, and folk. The Fremont District, which is located just north of the Strip, is a hub for independent artists and bands.[i]  Some of the local bands, including Panic! at the Disco and Ne-Yo have reached billboard charts, but even those who didn’t top charts deserve credit for bringing diversity into the music scene.

downloadAdditionally, the region is rich in visual arts and photography. The unique landscape and the local Native American culture draw in artists and photographers worldwide. Famous for its picturesque geological structures, the Red Rock Canyon, which is located in the suburbs of Las Vegas, offers Arts in Residence programs for artists to help them “reflect on scenic beauty, cultural history, and community engagement.”[ii] Some of the works created by these artists are truly incredible.

web1_9i3a0017_6753593
A busy street during the First Friday Art Walk

The arts of all sorts are actively encouraged by the city. The 18b Art District is home to numerous galleries, boutique, and vintage stores.[iii]  The First Friday Art Walk, which takes place on the first Friday of every month, celebrates talents of all sorts, including local bands, acrobatic performers, break dancers, and fire breathers.[iv] The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which features theater, featuring orchestral, opera, ballet, choral, jazz, and dance performances, is comparable to New York’s Broadway .

 History and Culture

images
Puebloan petroglyphs at the Valley of Fire State Park

Like most things from the North American continent, the Sin City phenomenon is relatively new. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the region was occupied by various Native-American tribes, including the Ancient Pueblo/Anasazi Peoples who left cultural footprints in various sites of Nevada and surrounding states.[v]  Their enigmatic petroglyphs can be viewed at the Valley of Fire State Park located only one hour drive from Las Vegas.

If you’re willing to take longer road trips from the city, you’ll be amazed to discover the staggering number of Native American ruins in the states like Arizona and Utah. From the authentic Puebloan ruins in Dark Canyon Wilderness to the Hopi-inspired Mary Colter’s building in Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim, there are myriads of landmarks waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. Native jewelry can be found in small souvenir stores standing on the roads the lead to the major national parks.

lostcitymuseumA number of museums have been established in Las Vegas and the surrounding cities to celebrate local history, from both colonial ancient and pre-colonial époques. Known as Nevada’s first archaeological museum, the Lost City Museum displays countless artifacts unearthed at various archaeological sites along the Muddy River Valley in southern Nevada.[vi] As the name implies, the Nevada State Railroad Museum was established to preserve the state’s railroad heritage. Every year, it hosts numerous lectures, symposiums, and temporary exhibits dedication to the locomotives. [vii] Thanks to the Las Vegas Historical Society, the online gallery viewers can look at the city’s development throughout the centuries and learn a bit more about its fascinating history.[viii]

Landscape

images (2)
Arch Rock at the Valley of Fire State Park

Finally, it is virtually impossible to talk about Nevada without mentioning its colorful landscape.  Las Vegas is located in the Mojave Desert, which encompasses parts of Nevada, California, Utah, and Arizona. Its landscape is characterized by mountain ranges, valleys, basins, plateaus, canyons, and lakes. The area also belongs to the Great Basin which had been formed millions of years ago and which comprises several more states, including Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.[ix]  The bright red and yellow colors, the winding roads leading to the major parks, the wildlife, and the local geology turn Nevada into an unforgettable destination for travelers of all ages and backgrounds.

Last Words

In a conclusion, all I can say is that I’m still heartbroken over the mass shooting, and I cannnot imagine the nightmare the victims’ families are currently going through. No one deserves to experience the horror of such unspeakable violence. However, this awful event won’t stop from visiting the city again and possibly going on a concert. I must admit I’m not too big on Las Vegas nightlife and shows, but if one of my favorite artists came to the city and the tickets were on sale, I would consider going.

As much as we want to be careful with everything going on, too much worrying would mean foregoing travel altogether, and for me travelling means being alive. I hope that someday, there’ll be laws to regulate gun violence and terrorism, so that we’ll be able to walk the streets without fear. For now, all we can really do is pray for the ones who died in the shooting and hope for better times.

References

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Nevada#Indie

[ii] http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/artist-in-residence/

[iii] http://www.fodors.com/world/north-america/usa/nevada/las-vegas/things-to-do/sights/reviews/downtown-arts-district-178016

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Vegas_Valley#Culture_and_the_arts

[v] http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/pueblo-grande-de-nevada-lost-city

[vi] ttp://nvculture.org/lostcitymuseum/about-the-museum/

[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_State_Railroad_Museum

[viii] http://lasvegashistoricalsociety.org/

[ix] https://www.desertusa.com/mojave-desert.html

 

Advertisements

An Afternoon with Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim

Last Sunday, which happened to be October 16, the next day after the International Archaeology Day, I was honored to meet an extraordinary man, Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the chief of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) of Syria. It was also the same day when a new exhibition, “Syria: a Living History,” opened at the Aga Khan Museum.

I’d known about this upcoming exhibit for quite a while and had been really looking forward to it. My level of enthusiasm for seeing this gallery has been pretty high partly because of my involvement with the Cultural Heritage Initiatives and partly because of life-long passion for all things Near East. During the weeks preceding the gallery opening, new event ads started popping on social media. A few concerts came up, and so did a couple of archaeology-related events. As soon as I found out about the lecture by Dr. Abdulkarim, I knew it would become part of my weekend plans.

On Sunday morning, I dropped off my daughter at my parents’ place and set off on a mission to meet one of the most important people in Near Eastern archaeology. The road was quite long, as I had to drive all the way from the west end to the Don Mills area. Moreover, the rain wouldn’t stop falling. A few panoramic scenes later, my car was parked safely in the Aga Khan Museum’s underground lot, and I was out, walking through a long tunnel towards the main elevator.

The atmosphere inside the museum was charged with anticipation. Visitors kept coming from all directions, and a huge lineup in front of the coffee booth was a clear evidence for willingness of many to be part of this new gallery opening.

The lecture began with welcoming messages by Henry Kim, CEO of the museum, and Christina Cameron, President of Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Then we got to see a video of a brief but very powerful message by Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General. She spoke on how cultural heritage represents achievements of the entire humanity and how its tragic demise can affect all of us. At last, he was on the stage.

Maamoun Abdulkarim briefly touched upon the dark events of the last five years and his difficult decision to stay in Damascus. The tone of his voice was very emotional, and yet he sounded determined. The Power Point images included those of the key sites, such as the Aleppo Citadel, Crac des Chevaliers, and several mosques throughout the country. Issues of looting, combat damage, and deliberate destruction for ideological reasons were raised. When he mentioned the large number of statues his team was able relocate from Palmyra to safer areas, the entire auditorium clapped. I was relieved to find out that, contrary to what most of the sources state, the statue of Al-Lat from Palmyra was not completely destroyed, but was simply damaged and can be restored. The fact that the restoration has already began for some areas gave me and many others sitting in the auditorium a glimmer of hope for a better future.

After the end of the lecture, the audience had a chance to meet Dr. Abdulkarim in the lobby. When my turn came, we exchanged a few words on the current situation and the role of the global effort in combating heritage destruction. In the end, shook hands and wished each other to meet in Damascus on day when there’ll be peace.

Afterwards, I proceeded upstairs to the exhibit, where I got to see artifacts from different historical and archaeological periods, ranging from Sumerian and Hittite to late Islamic and contemporary. Among them, I recognized a few pieces from the ROM and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many others were from famous European museums, such as Louvre and Museum of Berlin.

“Syria: a Living History” evokes a whole range of feelings, from awe for thousands years of cultural and artistic diversity, to the feeling of sadness and regret over the current situation. It’s amazing that despite anything, there are still people who are willing to risk their lives to help the humanity in saving our collective heritage.

 

Archaeology Digs as a Form of Travel

Lately, I’ve been feeling very nostalgic. As it’s now summer time, most archaeological digs in Israel and elsewhere in the world are underway. It seems that every time I log into Facebook or Twitter, I learn about yet another fascinating discovery that had occurred either spontaneously or thanks to an organized dig.

For anyone interested in travelling to one of history-rich countries, I strongly recommend signing up for an archaeological dig. The benefits are endless. You’ll get to  travel around the country of your stay, meet interesting people, and possibly, get a chance hold a tiny, two-thousand-year-old shard of pottery. Just make sure you have realistic expectations because if you think you’ll find gold on the first day, you might end up becoming disappointed.

In most cases, your room and board will be covered, so you won’t have to worry about finding a place to sleep or eat. Most dig sessions last somewhere between two-to-six weeks and are quite flexible with the duration of their participants’ stay. Whether you’ve got a whole month  or just a couple of weeks available for a learning vacation, you’ve got a plenty of choice.

My participation in the Bethsaida Excavation Project from three years ago was one the most rewarding travel experiences of my life. I got to be part of the project’s team and to meet many wonderful people, with whom I still stay in touch. To those who know little about the site, Bethsaida is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and has a prominent role in the Bible. During the tenth century BC, it was the capital of Geshur, a kingdom that encompassed sites from present-day northern Israel and parts of Syria.[1] According to the New Testament tradition, it was a hometown of at least three apostles and a place for one of the healing miracles.[2]

Some of the daily activities at the site included digging and sifting, taking levels, cleaning finds, and reading pottery. On Fridays, the site directors would take us to a small storage room located at the basement of the Igael Aalon Centre in Kibbutz Ginosar, where we were staying, and show us all the findings from past years. Such included storage jugs, bowls, Greek amphorae, and many others.

During the weekend of the dig, our group had a chance to tour the Golan Heights and discover many historic sites, including Gamla, the Nimrod Fortress, Katzrin, and Banias. At the end of the dig, I stayed in Israel for one more week with my husband. Together, we chose to travel a bit more and discover more places around the country.

Many countries, including Israel, Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, and even the United States, have archaeological projects that are actively recruiting volunteer participants. For anyone interested in signing up for this adventure, I compiled a list of some facts about archaeology digs.

Digging in the field can be hard.

If you prefer lying on a beach to hiking, then an archaeological dig might not be for you. You’ll be expected to get up in the wee hours of the morning and work in the field until the afternoon. Surely, you’ll have a few breaks in between, but you might still find the level of work challenging. The Bethsaida Excavations Project had a pottery cleaning for those who weren’t up to digging, but not all digs are the same. Some even require medical assessment to ensure all participants are in a good physical shape. So before signing for a dig, be honest with yourself and determine if that’s what you really want.

In many ways, archaeological digs are similar to hostelling/backpacking experience.

While some digs do offer the solo option, the most popular type of accommodation is a dorm with rooms meant to be shared by three-to-four participants. When digging at Bethsaida, we stayed in a small village known as Kibbutz Ginosar that offered accommodations in both luxury and backpacking styles. I chose the second option because 1) I couldn’t afford to stay in a regular hotel room and 2) I wanted to experience backpacking before having kids.  And I didn’t regret it the least. I got to meet many people from around the world, chat with Bedouin maids in Hebrew, and experience the real life on the dig. For me, staying in the dorm was the way to go.

The big difference between an archaeological dig and a backpacking trip lies in the amount of stuff you’ll need to pack.

While it’s technically possible to travel around Europe with nothing but a backpack, packing lightly for a dig will present some challenges. First and foremost, a water flask, which can take up a lot of space in your suitcase, is mandatory. Working for long hours in a hot weather can be taxing on your system, so you’ll have to remember to stay hydrated.  Since buying water bottles every day can be costly, it’s best to bring your own flask and fill it up with water. Another necessity is a sun hat and closed-toe boots. If you decide to stay longer than two weeks, consider packing extra clothes and toiletries to avoid doing too much laundry or running for a toothpaste to the closest convenience store at midnight. Although these items would be useful on a regular trip too, they are essentially for surviving on an archaeological dig.

Dig participants are incredibly diverse.

Volunteers who sign up for archaeological digs come from varying age groups and backgrounds. During my stay at Bethsaida, I got to mingle with students from the Truman State University who were taking a credit course, independent travelers in their twenties and thirties, and retired participants who had time and resource to feed their passion for archaeology. Most people from the “mature” group were well-seasoned professionals from fields, such as medicine, law, engineering, and higher education. No matter with whom I would end up sitting during lunch or dinner, we would always find something in common. We would talk about our favorite books, artists, and past trips. Even after three years, I still keep up with many of the former volunteers and staff.

Some Final Thoughts

The idea of spending a holiday slaving under the sun can appear daunting to some people. However, it’s important to keep in mind all the benefits of participating in an archaeological dig. Not only will you save money on food and accommodation but will also get a proper exposure to the culture of the country where you’ll stay. When travelling to a particular place, we often chose to focus on the tourist sites only. As a result, we often miss out on experiencing the true essence of that place. The best way to experience the real Israel, Spain, or Italy is to stay in a small village for a few weeks. Barring the Temple Mount Project and a couple of projects in Rome, most digs happen far away from the busy capitals, where it’s much easier to become acquainted with the real culture of the area.  So do at least consider becoming part of a dig!

Israel, My Love

It’s around eleven in the evening. My daughter has been sleeping peacefully for several hours. However, I’m still up, working on yet another freelance project. Suddenly, I hear the unmistakable playback from the morning news on the Radio Lev Hamedina and realize it’s getting late. The Toronto clock has hit past midnight.

Many of my friends wonder why I had decided to learn Hebrew or what on earth is the Kol Israel app doing on my cell phone. I’m not Jewish and have no plans of converting to Judaism. In fact, I’m perfectly happy with my Russian Orthodox heritage and plan on raising my kids this way. I simply find all things related to Israel, both ancient and modern, exciting.

I’ve been fascinated with Jewish/Israeli culture since thirteen and had even received a master’s degree in Ancient Israel. Now that I’m no longer in a grad school, I still keep on reading everything about the topic, from Bethsaida‘s annual field reports to books and articles written by Hershel Shanks. Most of my favorite music artists and talk shows are of Israeli origins. Some may find such fascination a bit strange, as Hebrew doesn’t have the same role in the popular culture as Spanish or French. Well, if a white person can enjoy Luis Armstrong’s jazz songs, there no reason why I can’t enjoy Boaz Sharabi’s ballads.

Before I continue, let me mention that Israel is VERY controversial. News, media, and differences in political opinions can easily turn a simple Mediterranean country into a hot topic. When discussing my last visit from three years ago with Pakistani coworkers over a cup of coffee, I wasn’t sure how to call the Golan Heights. Should I call the region Syria or Palestine? I thought to myself. I didn’t want to offend anyone. Many people, especially from the Eastern Hemisphere, don’t agree with the results of the Six Day War, and I fully respect that. Yet I can’t help myself but feel relieved that the world still has Banias, Katzrin, and Gamla secluded from the Syria’s conflict. Controversies aside, Israel is an amazing country for a variety of reasons.

#1 Israel makes a great tourist destination.

No matter what your interests are, you’ll always find something special to enjoy. Love nature? Try hiking in Ein Gedi or the Timna Valley Park. Are you an archaeology enthusiast? Consider signing up for an archaeologcal dig. Most digs are quite flexible with the duration of stay and can be easily fit into personal vacation plans. By becoming part of a dig, you’ll meet many interesting people from around the world and make an invaluable contribution to the archaeological research.  A thematic tour is another great option. Depending on your religious background and personal preferences, you can sign up for a Holy Land tour, which will focus heavily on sites from the New Testament, a Jewish heritage tour, which will include famous synagogues and historic centers, or even an ecological tour, which will mostly likely take place in the Arava or the Negev desert.  Even if you’re one of those overworked people, who want nothing more than spending an entire holiday on a beach, you can still benefit from a week-long getaway in Tel Aviv or Eilat. Both cities are famous for dining and nightlife, so rest assured you won’t get bored during your stay.

#2 Israel has an amazing entertainment scene.

Neither Sarit Hadad nor Miri Messika is topping the world charts. In fact, most people have no clue about who they are. However, it doesn’t mean these singers aren’t awesome.

Israeli music is quite diverse, as it bears influences of several cultures, including Eastern
European, Yemenite, Mediterranean, and, of course, British/ American. It’s not untypical to hear a rock song with Middle Eastern melody or a nostalgic ballad reminiscent of Russian music from the 90s. One can also hear Mediterranean songs infused with an addictive dance beat, clearly influenced by current trends in the music industry.

Israeli music scene is also very inclusive. Not all Israeli artists are of Jewish origins. Nasrin Kadri who had won a popular talent show two years ago is an Arab from Haifa, while Sharif, a famous mizrahi singer is Druze. Sameh Zakout (AKA Saz), who was born in an Arab town of Ramlah, was presented an opportunity to travel to Los Angeles and participate in the second season of Chai Be La La Land, a reality show that aimed at exposing Israeli singers to the international music. Let this be a mental note to those who believe in the “apartheid state” propaganda.

#3 Israel has made a great contribution to the world technology.

In spite of being relatively young (only 68 years), Israel has become one of the world leaders in science and technology. Many of its inventions, such as Intel, are being used all over the world. You can find the complete list of the technological inventions here.

#4 Israel is rich in history and culture.

This point needs no further explaining. The world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran, the prehistoric megaliths from the north, and the
Greco-Roman temples from various sites across the
country are a product of thousands years of history. Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where archaeological research is actively encouraged by the government and where it’s possible to experience both Egypt and Mesopotamia in a relatively safe environment.

How Educators Can Incorporate Heritage Conservation into School Curricula

The first time I walked into my daughter’s playgroup, I saw a model of St. Peter’s Cathedral from Rome placed on one of the classroom’s shelves. Having walked around, I also noticed the model of St. Basil’s Cathedral from Moscow in another room along with models of a few other landmarks from around the world. These were obviously built by older kids, who attend math and history classes in the same school. Just as we were driving back home, the idea hit me.  Why don’t these students build a model of one of the Palmyra’s temples or the Northwest Palace from Nimrud? Then I thought, Why not make heritage conservation part of school curricula?

As I had mentioned in my other post, heritage destruction is one of the biggest tragedies of our age. It’s almost impossible to talk about Mesopotamia without mentioning the issue. With Syria’s Civil War getting out of control and political instability in other adjacent countries being present, the number of important heritage sites is diminishing rapidly. Neglect, illegal construction, militarization, as well as deliberate destruction—all of these contribute to the dwindling of Syria’s and Iraq’s cultural heritages.

The question is how do we reach out to the general public? After all, the biggest percentage of our population consists of non-scholars with little-to-no background in heritage conservation.  I believe there is no better place to start educating lay people about the topic than schools, where future generations are developing.

My experience with public education is somewhat limited. I had enrolled in a teachers’ college right after finishing my master’s program because that was what everyone with a humanities background was doing (assuming that a law school or a Ph.D. program wasn’t part of the agenda).  After barely surviving the first two weeks of the practicum, I quit. The program’s structure and the school noise simply weren’t for me. However, I’d learned a few things about education in Canada during that month and a half of coursework that had preceded the practicum.

  1. Ontario curriculum is big on social justice. As a teacher, or at least as a practicum student from a teachers’ college, you’ll be expected to incorporate social justice into pretty much everything, be it a geometry lesson or a science class. Which can often be next to impossible.
  2. In the ideal world, all subjects should be interrelated. Math, science, history, and even physical education—all have to have some form of connection. The fancy term for this idea is cross-curricular/interdisciplinary learning.

In Ontario, ancient civilizations are being taught in Grade 5 Social Studies class and later in Grade 11 and Grade 12 history courses. It would make sense to include recent events into the curriculum. Please note that I’m using the plural form in my title because I’m also referring to curricula of other provinces and states. I believe it should be a global effort.  By incorporating heritage destruction into their curricula, educators would not only link courses on ancient history with modern issues but also raise greater awareness about the problem. Some activities teachers could plan for their students include the following:

  • Have students construct a model of the Northwest Palace as a group project during the study of Mesopotamia in Grade 5 Social Studies class. This cross-curricular activity would help students to bridge connections between Match and Social Studies and develop teambuilding skills, as it would be done in a group. This project could be readjusted for older/younger groups.
  • Encourage high school students to obtain volunteer hours, which are mandatory in Ontario, by participating in one of the global initiatives against heritage destruction, such as the ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives or Project Mosul. In an exchange for their hours, students would gain valuable experience and obtain a letter of recommendation from one of the leaders in heritage conservation.
  • Invite archaeology professionals to schools to host special workshops on heritage conservation.
  • Organize discussion groups about the importance of fighting heritage destruction.

In spite of overwhelming presence of popular archaeology magazines and free information on the Internet, there is still a big gap between the scholarly world and the general public. In the times like these, it’s important for different communities to come together and collaborate. The more people become aware of the issue, the more empowered our society will become in dealing with the crisis.

A Rough Guide to Buying an Archaeology Magazine

Have you ever found yourself flipping through colorful pages of some archaeology magazine while standing in the Science and Technology section of magazines at Chapters and Indigo? Then you’re definitely not alone. Many people, including myself, enjoy reading about archaeology. Whether you’re looking for general information or articles on very specific topics, you can find many such magazines available both in-store and online. While almost all news updates are now available on the Internet, in-depth discussions and debates can only be found in specialty magazines and books. Many of these discussions are quite enthralling and will leave you wondering how much do we really know.

There are several archaeology magazines from across the globe. If you live in Canada, you can find these magazines in most of the Chapters and Indigo stores as well as some Shoppers Drug Marts and Convenience stores. They are also available online for annual/bi-annual subscriptions. Below is the general information on some of them.

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR)

If you’re into some serious stuff, BASOR is definitely for you. This peer-reviewed journal published by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) contains articles on art, archaeology, anthropology, paleography, epigraphy, and many other similar topics. Among the areas of focus are ancient Canaan, Anatolia, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Just beware that it’s not the type of a magazine you’ll want to read on your couch on a Friday night. The text is very elaborate and requires a great deal of concentration. However, it’s highly recommended for anyone who is serious about the subject.

Cost: US $280 for US residents and US $310 for the rest. I had bought it back in 2013 together with an ASOR membership for a much lesser value, but I can’t recall how much exactly I had paid.

Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA)

Not unlike BASOR, NEA is also published by ASOR and is geared towards a scholarly audience. However, I find it a bit more accessible in terms of language and content than BASOR. I also like the fact that it features summer digs and general books about the field. The price is a big factor too.

Cost: US$40 for US residents and US $65 for the rest.

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR)

Whether you’re wondering if Jezebel was really that evil or if the James Ossuary is authentic, BAR is the right place to find the information. Beautifully designed and written in an accessible language, BAR focuses on the latest research in the lands of Israel, Jordan, and occasionally Turkey. The magazine’s website, the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), also features free books as well as upcoming digs, seminars, and lectures. For an additional cost, you can also subscribe to the BAS library and find more resources written on the Biblical archaeology.

Cost: US$24.97 for print and US $19.97 for digital subscriptions. For the fist-time subscribers, the magazine offers a year-round subscription at $US 13.97. Well, the big downside of this offer is that it’s valid for US customers only. So if you live in the United States and are interested in archaeology, be sure to seize this opportunity!

Archaeology

For anyone who is more interested in general archaeology, Archaeology is the right fit. Published by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), this magazine contains both long and short articles about findings from all over the globe. Both magazine and the website feature countless field opportunities, books, and specialty events.

Cost: US$14.97 for print/electronic (Canadian and foreign residents add US $15)

 American Journal of Archaeology

Also published by AIA, the American Journal of Archaeology is a scholarly journal that has articles on the Greco-Roman world as well as the ancient Near East. Judging from the abstracts provided online, it’s a very serious journal. So be sure to grab your coffee first to keep your mind focused!

Cost: US $80 for print/electronic

Egyptian Archaeology

Egypt’s fans will definitely appreciate this magazine. Published by the Egypt Exploration Society and based in England, Egyptian Archaeology contains articles written by prominent Egyptologists and archaeology specialists.

Cost: £48 per year (£56 Overseas/Non-UK) for a yearly membership with the organization, which also includes a  magazine subscription. An individual issue costs £5.95.

Kmt a Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt

Based in Weaverville, North Carolina, Kmt Journal is another great source of information for Egyptology students and enthusiasts. The journal features articles on excavations and research written by specialists from across the world. On the website, you can also find the list of the latest titles on Ancient Egypt as well as a links to the travel website.

Cost: US $37 for US and US$45 for Canada

Minerva Magazine

Based in London, UK, Minerva publishes articles on art and archaeology of ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia. It’s also a great source of information for museum junkies interested in the latest exhibitions happening around the globe.

Cost:  US $60/ £38 per six issues for Canada/US residents (£28.50/£30 for UK and £33 for Europe residents)

AND FINALLY…

Don’t forget to check out the Friends of ASOR page that offers a free online journal! The subscription is quick and easy and, above all, won’t cost you anything. All you’ll have to do is create an account with the Friends of ASOR to start receiving newsletters with articles on Near Eastern archaeology.

 

 

Fighting for Cultural Heritage: Does it Matter?

It’s no secret that we live in a less-than perfect world. Sadly, the modern geography is changing rapidly, and in a few years, parts of the Middle East might end up looking differently on the map. With refuge crises and terror threat being constantly replayed in the media, it’s easy to forget about heritage destruction happening in Syria, Iraq, and a few other countries. After all, why would anyone care about a bunch of statues disappearing when thousands of people are dying or fleeing for their lives? Yet anyone with a background in archaeology or world history would agree that heritage destruction is one of the biggest tragedies of the modern age.

I’m part of the ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiatives, a global effort to document cultural damage happening in Syria and Iraq. I decided to join it mainly because of my former academic background, which is in Near Eastern archaeology and languages, and because I simply care. I must admit that sometimes, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the whole project. Let’s face it; all we can really do at the moment is to collect the data and record the damage. Surely, there are people who are trying to rescue ancient treasures on the ground, but it’s an extremely risky business and the success rates aren’t terribly high. As for the post-war preservation projects, it’s hard to tell what the future holds. Nevertheless, there is still hope.

Places such as Palmyra and Nimrud are very important to the scholarly community worldwide. Anyone who has been in the academia even for a short period of time can testify how hard getting hold of the past can be. Even findings that are easily available can present so many enigmas. Talk about forgery trials regularly featured in the Biblical Archaeology Review. When significant portions of evidence disappear, more gaps need to be filled.

With modern technology, it’s much easier to track down sites that have been looted, intentionally destroyed, or damaged as a result of military activity. It’s even possible to preserve entire manuscript libraries and reconstruct ancient cities digitally. There are several organizations that work on heritage preservation.

The Aleppo Project

http://www.thealeppoproject.com/home-inn/

Supported by the Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery School of Public Policy in Budapest, Hungary, the Aleppo Project is collaboration among people who care about the city’s future. The goal of the project is to gather information about the city’s past, document military damage, and plan for post-war restoration. The organization is currently looking for blog writers, map designers, and people who are interested in sharing their opinion about various matters by completing surveys.

The Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA)

http://apsa2011.com/apsanew/

APSA aims at gathering information about the region and documenting damage done to heritage sites. The organization consists of volunteer professionals from various fields, including archaeology, journalism, and web technology, who are eager to contribute their skills to the cause.

The Canadian Centre for Epigraphic Documents (CCED)

http://www.epigraphy.ca/

Run by a group of scholars and information professionals from Toronto, Canada, and other parts of the world, the center aims at creating digital archives of epigraphic materials from the Middle East and beyond.  The center’s main area of focus is early Christian writings of Syriac/Aramaic origin.

Heritage for Peace

http://www.heritageforpeace.org/about-us/

Based in Girona, Spain, Heritage for Peace consists of a volunteer network of heritage specialists from across the world. The organization seeks to document heritage destruction and support Syrians in protecting their cultural heritage. Currently, the organization isn’t actively looking for volunteers. However, they do need help in managing social media and writing the newsletter.

Monuments of Mosul

http://monumentsofmosul.com/

Supported by The Czech Academy of Sciences, the project aims at documenting monuments that had been destroyed by the Islamic State.  Currently, the team is working on releasing a satellite map of all the monuments and is requesting for more information on thirty eight statues that yet need to be identified.

Project Mosul

http://projectmosul.org/

As the name indicates, the project focuses on restoring and preserving northern Iraq’s heritage via digital resources. Currently, the project representatives are looking for help in sorting and masking images from various destruction scenes that had taken place at the Northwest Palace in Nimrud and other similar sites.

New Palmyra

http://www.newpalmyra.org/

The project’s main goal is recreate the site of Palmyra virtually, using computer technology. So far, the models of the Ach of Triumph and the Temple of Bel have been created. Hopefully, more sites will be reconstructed in future with the help of digital specialists.

The Syrian Heritage Initiatives (CHI)

http://www.asor-syrianheritage.org/

Supported by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the US Department of State, the CHI seeks to document damage, promote awareness, and plan post-war responses. The team is always looking for help in various fields.

How can you help?

You don’t have to be a scholar or a specialist in 3D technology. Anyone with basic computer skills can contribute to either of these projects. These organizations are constantly looking for artists, researchers, archivists, and people of many other professions to help out with various tasks. If you know another language, especially French or Arabic, it’s always a bonus, as many of these organizations have communications in foreign languages. No matter what your talent is, you can become an integral part of the global effort to save our heritage.

Resources

https://www.rom.on.ca/en/collections-research/rom-channel/syria-today-humanitarian-crisis-and-the-destruction-of-cultural

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/05/29/the-islamic-states-threat-to-cultural-heritage/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/while-isis-destroys-hamilton-man-battles-to-preserve-historic-texts-1.2748734