Erasing Mankind’s Heritage: the Monuments of Palmyra and their Devastation by ISIS by Dr. Clemens Reichel

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

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Price: Free | Seating is limited. Arrive early.

On March 20, 2015 news outlets around the world reported that Palmyra, Syria most famous world heritage site, had been captured by the “Islamic State” (ISIS). Over the next few months the world watched in disbelief as its major monuments, which include some of Syria most recognizable architectural landmarks, were reduced to rubble by systematic destruction or severely damaged as the site changed hands repeatedly in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Using photographs and video footage taken onsite, this lecture will outline Palmyra’s significance as a key trade post along the Silk Road—where people from the eastern and western world created a unique multi-cultural society—describe its major monuments and cultural achievements, and highlight the terrible loss that the destruction of this site would mean to human heritage.

Born and raised in a small town in Southern Germany’s Black Forest, Dr. Clemens Reichel’s interest in archaeology awoke during a trip to Rome at the age of 12. His first encounter with Near Eastern archaeology occurred at the University of Freiburg (Germany). His studies subsequently took him to the University of London and the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in Mesopotamian archaeology. Dr. Reichel has excavated and surveyed extensively on sites in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Since 2004 he has been directing the Hamoukar Expedition, a large Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age site in northeastern Syria that is excavated in a joint project between the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and the Syrian Department of Antiquities.

Though "a field archaeologist at heart," Reichel’s background includes extensive museum work. Since 1999 he has been the director of the Diyala Project, which aims at the publication of over 15,000 objects from excavations undertaken by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in the Diyala Region (Iraq) during the 1930’s in an on-line database. In 2002 and 2003 he was Assistant Curator at the Oriental Institute Museum, working on the reinstallation of the museum’s Mesopotamian Gallery. Following the Iraq War and subsequent looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2003, Reichel coordinated the creation of an on-line database of artifacts likely to have been stolen from the museum.

Dr. Reichel’s research interests concentrate on complex societies and the evolution of urbanism. He has a comprehensive background in Sumerian and Akkadian, Mesopotamia’s ancient languages written in cuneiform writing. His publications include studies on "text archaeology" (the archeological use of written sources), seals and clay sealings from the Diyala and Hamoukar excavations, aspects of divine kingship in Mesopotamia, and the current threat to Iraq’s cultural heritage.


SEATING IS LIMITED. Please arrive early.

Light snacks and refreshments will be served before the lecture from 5:30-6:30. Stickering for auditorium seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 5:30 p.m. 

This lecture is made possible by generous support from the Louis A. and Frances B. Wagner lecture fund.

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