Nature’s Ewen Callaway interviewed Cambridge archaeologist Graeme Barker about his recent resumption of fieldwork at Shanidar, Iraq: “Archaeologists ousted by ISIS return to ancient Iraqi cave”. He describes the support of local Kurdish people for their heritage, and discusses some of the goals of the excavation.
People say to me they won’t go on holiday where I choose to work next, but in both cases we embarked on the excavations in conditions of stability and then events took over! But these excavations are enormous intellectual opportunities. They are ways of tackling big, fundamental questions about the human past, using the techniques of modern archaeological science.
There is also a broader social purpose. Archaeology is often thought of as a cosy sort of subject, but most of the killing that is going on around the globe relates to people's sense of whether they are similar or different to each other, all of which is rooted in how they feel about their past and where they come from. Archaeology has a huge role to play in building civil societies that are comfortable with the complexity of their past.