Evolving conflicts are constantly redefining the map of archaeological activities conducted by France abroad. An improved political and security situation, for example, in Cambodia twenty years ago, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan some ten years ago, and more recently in Iraqi Kurdistan, allows for a gradual resumption in excavation operations.
Relations maintained between the French archaeologists and their foreign counterparts are not brutally severed when a conflict breaks out. On the contrary, although field activities must cease for a time, scientific activity and the relationship with archaeologists of the country are maintained via joint publications and the organization of study days, and training of students and professionals working in heritage. It is thanks to the continuity of this partnership that field activities can then resume when conflicts end.
In times of crisis, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has committed to maintaining this partnership by financing or co-financing these training programmes, driving various archiving, digitalizing and modelling actions, but also contributing to exhibitions and colloquia with partner institutions. When conflicts end, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development plays a crucial role in supporting appropriate initiatives for every situation.
That is why in Cambodia, since 1991, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has been working to have the Angkor site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list and has supported Cambodian authorities in co-chairing since 1993 the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguard and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor.
In Afghanistan, contacts were resumed through the museology at the same time diplomatic relations resumed. Acting under a ministry mandate, Jean-François Jarrige, the then Secretary-General of the Archaeological Research Commission and Director of the Musée Guimet visited Afghanistan to help restore the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul, enabling it to re-open in 2004. This then led to the resumption of archaeological activities in the field.
This close and continual collaboration of the various actors, both institutional and scientific, helps sites that have long been threatened or even closed to all research work to become full-fledged excavations fields.
From the identification and evaluation of damage by way of excavation and restoration, French teams in the field contribute to their material safeguard. This rehabilitation work relies on close cooperation between the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and international organizations such as UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and includes inscription on the World Heritage List and sending experts to the field among other things.
Post-conflict rehabilitation is crucial because it ensures the sustainability of a collective memory at regional and international level. In the face of these numerous challenges, archaeology participates in many ways to the (re)construction of identity. In this regard, French archaeologists are highly invested in raising awareness of the local population and the general public through the creation of museums on the sites, books and educational activities for children and reappropriation through art (drawing, photography, street art).
On the same topic:
- Focus: Angkor, an emblematic post-crisis situation
- Focus: The Buddhas of Bamiyan and the French Archaeological Delegation’s in Afghanistan
- Focus: The French Archaeological Mission in the Indus Basin in Pakistan
- Focus: Missions in Iraqi Kurdistan, exploration of a new field of research
Updated: december 2016
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