Washington DC, April 7 2016 – What can be done in areas of conflict to save cultural heritage and make it relevant to our present cultural identity? On April 11, 2016 the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. will host a panel discussion, and exhibition opening, on the work of international archaeologists in Yemen. The event is part of the “Protecting our Heritage” series of events, launched by the Washington chapter of the network of the European National Institutes of Culture  (EUNIC Washington DC), supported by UNESCO. The initiative will be a tribute to the work of Alessandro de Maigret, a prominent Italian archaeologist who was a pioneer in coordinating the Italian archaeological mission in Yemen since its inception in 1980.

The panel discussion will feature archaeologist and author Sabina Antonini de Maigret current Director of the Italian archaeological mission in Yemen (Monumenta Orientalia), Michael Harrower  Assistant Professor of Archaeology, Department of Near Eastern Studies at John Hopkins University,  Iris Gerlach, Director of the German Archaeological Institute in Sanaa, and Doctor Alexander Nagel, Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History.

The event will also inaugurate the photographic exhibition “South Arabia Revisited: The Work of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen”, which will highlight stories from the field, and collaborative efforts. Showcased archival documents, photographs, notebooks and drawings are the legacies of archaeological fieldwork, documentation and restoration at important archaeological sites like Bar?qish and Tamna?.

“This is the eighth event of the ‘Protecting our Heritage’ series, a program that we launched with two main goals in mind: to raise public awareness on the need to protect our heritage, and to reinforce the network of different organizations working to preserve it for future generations,” said the Ambassador of Italy to the U.S. Armando Varricchio. “In particular, this event will focus on what it means to work in a difficult context, which requires not only a high level of  expertise, but also powerful diplomatic skills. Archaeologists in such areas must understand the past, but also the present, and be able to mediate between different conditions and actors. Their goal is to work for the future.”

The Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen was launched in 1980. Its Director, Alessandro de Maigret, set out to investigate the ancient peoples and cultures of Southern Arabia who lived before the first millennium B.C., and to establish a reliable archaeological chronology for this historical period. The Director developed a new basis for documentary evidence that was multidisciplinary in nature and which could be used as a comparison with previous data – mostly inferred from inscriptions. Created with the patronage of the Istituto per l’Oriente in Rome, with support from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Archaeological Mission envisioned and organized a remarkable series of systematic fieldwork and restoration projects. In partnership with scholars and members from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, and the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums in Yemen, Italian archaeologists and restorers have since made groundbreaking contributions and helped to refine our understanding Yemen’s history, and to recreate some of its marvelous architectural wonders dating from both pre-Islamic and Islamic cultures.

Yemen’s vast and beautiful cultural landscapes are inscribed on the World Heritage List, and there are many people who care for them throughout the world. In peaceful times, Italian and Yemeni colleagues have produced a considerable wealth of information through collaborative efforts and research. Although the current political situation does not allow for actual field research, the Italian Mission has maintained its vigorous commitment to protecting  Archaeological Heritage in Yemen through the Monumenta Orientalia program.

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