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International Archaeology Day

October 17, 2015

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International Archaeology Day

Archaeological Institute of America Washington DC Society

Each year, on the third Saturday of October, the world celebrates International Archaeology Day! For this celebration, archaeological organizations arrange various programming and activities for people of all ages.

This year, students, professionals and members of the public gathered on October 17th for an unusual event at the University of Maryland to mark International Archaeology Day. Co-sponsored by the Washington DC Society of the Archaeological Institute of America and the University of Maryland Department of Classics, and supported by a generous Society Outreach Grant from the AIA, the session was organized as an informal discussion of timely issues in the field of cultural heritage today. Not necessarily ripped from the headlines but certainly much in the news, tscenarios were provided and the participants were asked to consider aspects like the repatriation of valuable artifacts to countries where extremists are engaged in campaigns of large scale destruction, the fate of cultural heritage in unstable regions around the world, looting in places where there is rampant poverty and unemployment, the ethics of the antiquities market and the balance between preservation and much needed economic development.

After a brief introduction by a panel of professionals in the field, groups assembled at round tables for what proved to be a lively debate (see pictures below). Interest in the issues was so intense, especially on the part of students, that they failed to notice the promised pizza delivery. Breaking only to grab a few slices, they returned to their tables to continue to explore the many permutations of saving cultural heritage in an unstable world. The roundtable wrap-up session went into overtime as people shared their questions, concerns and ideas. A quick survey of the participants answered the question posed in the title of the event, for it was clear that everyone there, no matter what field they were in, knew why they cared.

Facilitators included: Justine Benanty (Co-Founder of “The ArchaeoVenturers Project”), Alex Nagel (Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution), Katie A. Paul (Chief of Staff, researcher, The Antiquities Coalition), Sandra Scham (Vice President, DC-AIA), and Matthew Suriano (Assistant Professor of New Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Maryland).

“Cultural Heritage — Why Do We Care?” is co-sponsored by the Department of Classics at the University of Maryland; 
additional funding was obtained through AIA’s Society Outreach Grant.
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