Beyond Destruction: Archaeology & Cultural Heritage in the Middle East and North Africa

AbstractBeyond Destruction

The well‐publicized destruction of antiquities at the hands of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has highlighted the urgent, long‐standing need for a global discussion of cultural heritage protection in the Middle East. This symposium aims to move public discourse around cultural heritage beyond reactions to looting and destruction and to engage more deeply with responses from academic and governmental institutions. The program will also focus on emerging currents within the discipline of Middle Eastern archaeology that emphasize a well‐rounded approach to cultural heritage and ask invited scholars and practitioners, government officials, artists, and the public to engage both with archaeological remains and the living communities in which research is conducted.



Pop-Up Palmyra: Responses to the Destruction of the Past


pop-up palmyra flier v4Featuring artwork by :

Sargon Saadi

Martina Kern

Sargon Benjamin

Soroor Ghanimati

Yasmine El-Hage

Sepehr Bakhtiari

Parham Taghioff

Paul Batou

Fred Parhad


CMES, in partnership with the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, is organizing Pop-Up Palmyra: Responses to the Destruction of the Past. The informal, short-term exhibition will be on display in the Stanley Hall Atrium on March 12, and then again in other campus locations during CalDay on April 16.

We are accepting submissions in any artistic medium, including but not limited to painting, sculpture, installation, performance art, dance, spoken word, poetry, theater and music. Submissions are welcome from anyone in the Berkeley community: students, staff, faculty, and members of the public! 

Deadlines for submission:

To be considered for the March 12 (Beyond Destruction) Pop-Up Palmyra Expo, apply by March 1, 2016.

To be considered for the April 16 (CalDay) Pop-Up Palmyra Expo, apply by April 1, 2016.

How to apply:

The form for submission can be found below:

Form for Art Submissions

Or via

Guidelines and restrictions are listed on this page, after the program.


Friday, March 11

Opening Reception

Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology

7:00 pm // Keynote

Patty Gerstenblith

Performance and Tours to follow

Badè curators will be present to answer questions about the museum, its collections, current exhibitions, and excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh with guests over drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the Pacific School of Religion’s historic Hollbrook Building.


Saturday, March 12


James Lau Auditorium

106 Stanley Hall


8:30am // Registration and Refreshments

On-site registration available; advance registration required for lunch.


9:15am // Welcome and opening remarks

Sabrina Maras, Berkeley History of Art and Near Eastern Studies


9:30am // Session 1: Politics

An exploration of the topic of cultural heritage—and cultural heritage destruction—within political

discourse related to the Middle East and North Africa. How is cultural heritage being used to further the

agendas of the various political groups involved, and what is the legal framework within which these

agendas are being pursued? How do we bring those frameworks into the classroom, the courtroom, the

field, and to the public?


Session chair: Carla Shapreau, Berkeley School of Law

Amr Al‐Azm

Patty Gerstenblith

Susan Penacho

Susan Wolfinbarger



12:00pm // Break and Pop-Up Palmyra Expo


Lunch will be provided with advance registration during this crowd-sourced art exhibition in which the Berkeley community seeks to explore and respond to cultural heritage and its destruction, preservation, creation, and celebration. For more information on how to have your work included in Pop-Up Palmyra, see below for details and a web form.


1:00pm // Keynote

Monica Hanna

Introduced by Carol Redmount, Chair, Berkeley Near Eastern Studies


Q & A Moderated by Rita Lucarelli, Berkeley Near Eastern Studies


2:00pm // Session 2: Practice

What role do practitioners play in the conversation about cultural heritage? The panel will focus on

emerging currents within the discipline of Middle Eastern archaeology that emphasize a well‐rounded

approach to cultural heritage that engages both with archaeological remains and the living communities

in which research is conducted.Who are the stakeholders, and what is at stake? In what ways do we

study, cherish, create, and destroy heritage?


Session chair: Lisa Maher, Berkeley Anthropology


Salam Al Kuntar

Morehshin Allahyari

Dana DePietro

Soroor Ghanimati

Michael Harrower

Allison Mickel

Cinzia Perlingieri

Barry Threw


4:30pm // Concluding Remarks

Benjamin Porter, Berkeley Near Eastern Studies and Director, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology


About our Participants

Salam Al Kuntar is a Syrian archaeologist. She received her BA from Damascus University (1996), her MA from theUniversity of Liverpool (2004), and her PhD in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge (2009). She has worked with the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria in a number of capacities from 1996-2012. Salam has … Continued


Morehshin Allahyari is a new media artist, art activist, educator, and occasional curator. She was born and raised in Iran and moved to the United States in 2007. Her work extensively deals with the political, social, and cultural contradictions we face every day. She thinks about technology as a philosophical toolset to reflect on objects; a poetic means to … Continued


Amr Al Azm is an associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio.  He was educated in the U.K., reading archaeology of Western Asiatics at the University College London, and graduated with a doctoral degree in 1991. He was the director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities … Continued


Dr. DePietro received his PhD in Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from U.C. Berkeley in 2012. His research centers on anthropological approaches to trade and cross-cultural contact in antiquity, with an emphasis on the Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age. His work also examines the complex relationship between the practice of archaeology, the production of historical narratives, and the … Continued


Hannah Ellis is a third year undergraduate student at the University of California Berkeley majoring in Political Science and minoring in Arabic. She is very interested in religion and human rights especially in regard to women and hopes to work in a related field when she graduates. In the meantime her coursework includes International Human Rights … Continued


Patty Gerstenblith is a distinguished research professor of law at DePaul University and director of its Center for Art,Museum & Cultural Heritage Law. She is founding president of the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (2005-2011), a director of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and senior advisor to the ABA’s Art and Cultural … Continued


Soroor Ghanimati received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, in 2001. Her area of specialty is the material culture of the Near East, Iran, Central Asia, and North Africa from Late Antiquity through the Medieval Islamic era. She is, at the same time, a practicing … Continued


Monica Hanna was born in Heliopolis, and did her undergraduate degree in Egyptology and Archaeological Chemistry at the American University in Cairo. She later went to University of Pisa in Italy to complete her doctorate. From July 2011 until November 2012, she was a post-doctoral fellow in the Topoi Cluster of Excellence in the Department of Egyptology … Continued


Michael Harrower is an archaeologist whose research concentrates on long-term histories from the beginnings of agriculture through the rise of ancient states across Southern Arabia and the Horn of Africa. His interests in archaeological theory center on the interface of scientific and humanistic perspectives in archaeology including as expressed in studies of environmental and social … Continued


Martina Kern is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley of Near Eastern Studies Department with an emphasis in Islamic Civilizations. She currently works as Community Outreach Lead & Collections Assistance at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum in Oxnard, CA. Issues of cultural heritage are tremendously important to her, and communicating creatively about them through new forms of media … Continued


Rita Lucarelli studied at the University of Naples “L’Orientale,” Italy, where she received her MA degree in Classical Languages and Egyptology. She holds her Ph.D. from Leiden University, the Netherlands (2005).  Her Ph.D. thesis was published in 2006 as The Book of the Dead of Gatseshen: Ancient Egyptian Funerary Religion in the 10th Century BC. … Continued


I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Following this I joined the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies and Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge as Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow from 2005-2007. I was a Research Associate in Cambridge … Continued


Dr. Maras received her PhD in ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology from UC Berkeley in 2009, with a special emphasis on ancient Persia and first millennium empires of the ancient Near East. Her primary research interest is in examining how iconography was used to create identities and manipulate social structure and power in the … Continued


Allison Mickel is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her research performs an archaeology of Middle Eastern archaeology, using ethnography and oral history to examine the history and politics of local labor at major archaeological sites in the region, including Petra in Jordan and Catalhoyuk in Turkey. Her work demonstrates … Continued


Project Manager for ASOR CHI Geospatial Initiatives, she is responsible for satellite imagery analysis and the continuing growth of the heritage inventory. Dr. Penacho received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2015, completing a dissertation on a spatial analysis of clay sealings within Nubian Fortresses of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. She previously worked … Continued


Cinzia received her Ph.D. in Archaeology at the University of Naples “l’Orientale”, Italy. She participated in her first archaeological project in Sudan, Africa, in 1989 as archaeologist and ceramic analyst. Since then, she focussed her research in the archaeology of early states in northeast Africa, Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea/Ethiopia, with a specialization in ceramic studies. … Continued


Education: Ph.D. with distinction, University of Chicago, March 1989; Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, dissertation “On an Egyptian/Asiatic Frontier: An Archaeological History of the Wadi Tumilat” M.T.S. Harvard Divinity School, 1976; Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies B.A. with Highest Honors in Religion, Oberlin College, 1974; Anthropology and Religion Double Major; Phi Beta Kappa Selected Professional Positions: … Continued


Carla Shapreau teaches Art and Cultural Property Law and is a Senior Fellow in the Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley, where she is conducting cultural property research. Ms. Shapreau’s legal practice has an emphasis in intellectual property, art, and cultural property law. She has represented a wide range of clients in the … Continued


Barry Threw is designer and technologist focused on spatial media, mutible architectures, and cultural infrastructures. He works in collaboration with institutions, artists and organizations at the intersection of technology and culture. He is Director of Software at Obscura Digital, and is a curator with the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. He currently serves as Interim … Continued


Susan R. Wolfinbarger, PhD, is the Director for the Geospatial Technologies Project, a part of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) where she oversees the projects of AAAS that deal with the applications of geospatial technologies to a range of human rights and humanitarian issues. Her work … Continued


Amber Zambelli is the Outreach Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. She earned her A.B. in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College and conducted graduate study in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, where she focused on the archaeology of the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula. Her current research … Continued



Pop-Up Palmyra Restrictions and Guidelines


While we prefer not to place any restrictions on your creativity, this is a family and community event so we would like to keep the artwork safe for all viewers.

The following will not be permitted for incorporation in the exhibition:

  • toxic, flammable or dangerous substances
  • pornographic or violent imagery
  • insensitive imagery or commentary such as profanity, racial slurs, bigotry, sexism or culturally intolerant images/messages
  • extremely provocative, offensive or shocking material



In order to share space we need to limit the dimensions to no larger than approximately 5ft. x 5 ft. Smaller items are preferable, and there is no minimum size.


Time limits:

Performance pieces should last no longer than approximately 10 minutes. There is no minimum time limit.


Live streaming

As part of the organizers’ commitment to making this conversation open and accessible, Saturday, March 12 will be live-streamed and available worldwide! All presentations will be made in English, and there will be opportunity for remote audiences to submit questions via Facebook and Twitter (details to come).

Videos and podcasts of the full symposium, including the Friday night keynote, will be available by the end of March, and available for use in the classroom and/or translation. Unfortunately, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies does not have the resources necessary to translate or subtitle our videos at present.

If you are an educator interested in including Beyond Destruction in your classroom, please contact Amber Zambelli at for more information.

Learn more

Panelist Morehshin Allahyari describes her work preserving art destroyed by ISIL using modern technology.

Artist Fights ISIS With A 3D Printer

In Acts of Resistance, Artists and Scholars Digitally Reconstruct the Past


The Department of States’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs held a symposium on “Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save the Endangered Patrimony of Iraq and Syria,” in September of 2015. A group of panelists from different departments of the US Government came together to discuss what could be done to stem the destruction of antiquities in Iraq and Syria.  Below find videos to the opening remarks and the first panel.

Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan Opening Remarks

Panel 1


Panelist Salam Al Kuntar was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2015. Al Kuntar describes her mission to save Syria’s cultural heritage in the National Geographic article below.

An Archaeologist’s Fight to Save Syria’s Cultural Heritage


Panelist Susan Penacho is the project manager for ASOR CHI (Cultural Heritage Initiative) geospatial initiatives, cooperative effort with the US Department of State to preserve the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq. Read about ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiative below.

ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives


Panelist Amr Al Azm is an associate professor of history and anthropology at Shawnee State University. He has written extensively on the topic of destruction of cultural heritage in Syria. Read about his views on this destruction below.

The Pillaging of Syria’s Cultural Heritage

Why ISIS Wants to Destroy Syria’s Cultural Heritage



Interested in volunteering at the symposium? Fill out the form below:

Form for Volunteers


Check this page frequently, as we will periodically update this page with background information, news items, and videos as the symposium approaches!

This event has achieved certification as a Zero Waste Green Event, in accordance with criteria established by the UC Berkeley of Sustainability & Energy.





Sponsored in conjunction with:

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