Upcoming Lecture: ISIS and Crowdsourcing Cyber Archaeology

Title: Crowdsourced Monitoring of Damage to Archaeological Sites in Conflict Zones: The TerraWatchers – ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative Collaboration.

Speaker: Stephen H. Savage, Arizona State University

When and Where: Thursday, March 23, 6pm, ASU Tempe Campus, Coor Hall Room L1-10

The deliberate looting and destruction of archaeological sites and museum objects by ISIS has been widely reported by western media, and widely condemned by political leaders and academics.  The world watched in sorrow as the Temple of Bel at Palmyra was blown up two years ago; before that, we witnessed the deliberate destruction of priceless materials from the Mosul Museum.  Widespread looting of ancient sites has flooded the illegal antiquities market with objects whose sale helps fund ISIS and other groups. While the West has mostly focused on these and other acts of deliberate destruction, the collateral damage to archaeological sites caused by military activity in the region has generally gone unnoticed or under-reported.  The American Schools of Oriental Research created their Cultural Heritage Initiative with funding from the U.S. Department of State in order to monitor damage to sites caused by these activities.  But the job is so big, with so many sites to examine, that ASOR could not do it without help. A crowdsourced solution to the monitoring problem was required, and the TerraWatchers web platform provided a solution.  With the assistance of a Catalyst grant from the Office of the President of the University of California system, TerraWatchers is working with the Center for Cyber-Archaeology & Sustainability, at Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego to train and supervise students from UCSD, UC Berkeley, UC Merced, and UCLA to monitor nearly 11,000 sites in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.  The results of the TerraWatchers mission are reported back to ASOR and the State Department, and through them, to international law enforcement agencies.  This presentation will explore some of the results of our ongoing efforts.

Stephen H. Savage has worked in the Near East for nearly 40 years, including fieldwork in Jordan, Israel and Egypt.  He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology/Archaeology from Arizona State University (ASU) in 1995.  At ASU, he was an Affiliated Professor in the School of Human Evolution & Social Change, IT Manager for the Archaeological Research Institute and a Scientific Software Engineer for the Institute for Humanities Research.  He develops large-scale archaeological and GIS database applications for a variety of platforms, including the Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land, the Aegean Digital Archaeological Atlas, and the Mediterranean Archaeological Network. He is the author of the TerraWatchers web platform for crowdsourced satellite image analysis.  He has conducted workshops in the United States, Jordan, Greece and Norway.  His research interests include early complex societies in the Near East and North Africa, the Levantine Bronze Age, Predynastic and Archaic Egypt, mortuary analysis, spatial analysis, GIS and remote sensing, and database development and design.  In addition to numerous contributions to edited volumes, he has published in American Antiquity, the Journal of Archaeological Science, the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, Radiocarbon, the Journal of Archaeological Research, the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology and the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.  Recently retired from Arizona State University, he is currently a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, and an Affiliated Investigator at the Center for Cyber-Archaeology & Sustainability, Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego, and a Senior Fellow at the Capitol Archaeological Institute, George Washington University.

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