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The Archaeology of Extremist Movements

October 17, 2019 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Archaeology Center

Dr. Sandra Scham is a specialist in artifacts of the Near East from the Neolithic through the Byzantine Period and has long been active in educational exchange and teaching about Near Eastern Archaeology. She taught at Jerusalem University College and was an associate curator at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem before returning to CU and the University of Maryland.She has worked at Teleilat Ghassul and Wadi Adrafa in Jordan, Caesarea in Israel and on the Mopsos Survey Project in the Hatay Region of Turkey. She has also coordinated academic exchanges on heritage conservation in Israel and Palestine under the Wye River People to People Program of the US State Department.She served as editor of Near East Archaeology, published by the American Schools of Oriental Research, and is one of the faculty for Penn State's field school in Cilicia in Turkey, which several CU students have attended. In 2010 she will be on the faculty of the Akko World Heritage Conservation Project in Israel, and she is also currently working as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in the Asia and Middle East Bureaus of USAID.

Separatists, insurgents, rebels and revolutionaries who engage in radical action in support of their causes are often referred to as extremists. In the United States, if such a group threatens its allies, they may also find themselves on the State Department’s terrorist list, even though they may never have been a danger to this country. The Kurdish PKK, with its affiliates, is one such group. Ansar Allah in Yemen, colloquially referred to as Houthis, is another. These groups, and others in the Middle East, have their own distinct cultural heritage that may extend back more than a thousand years. Although their histories are revered within the group, they are seldom explored by outside observers. Nevertheless, investigating these pasts may be as crucial to archaeologists in the Middle East as protecting the sites and material culture of ancient civilizations. This lecture discusses several ways in which archaeologists can work toward an understanding political violence in the region, past and present, by: 1) examining those stories, symbols and events of the past that have resonated with extremist movements for generations; 2) analyzing why and how certain extremist movements have made use of the ancient past; and 3) interrogating the reactions of both ancient and modern state actors to these extremist narratives. 

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