The National Museum of Raqqa in Syria has suffered immensely from the ongoing violence since 2011. Much of its valuable collection of movable archaeological heritage (ca. 6000 items) is considered lost. No detailed inventory meeting international standards for object identification currently exists to facilitate identification of stolen objects should they appear on the antiquities market. Starting as a pilot with ca. 500 of the most precious objects of the museum stored in the Raqqa Central Bank and stolen from there in 2013, this project aims to create a concrete, workable database to enable identification by Syrian and international police and heritage institutions. This is a pivotal first step towards potential reconstruction of the Raqqa Museum in the future.
The project shall elaborate on pioneering work already done by the the Syrian Directorate General of Archaeology and Museums (DGAM) and the Freie Universität Berlin and make use of excavation data stored in Dutch archives. Additional goals include writing a sound, detailed damage assessment of the recent history of the museum and its collection, training members of the DGAM in database management, setting up a website on the museum, and promoting the Raqqa Museum amongst the Dutch and international non-academic public.
This project work involves two archaeologists from Syria with a refugee status. Khaled Hiatlih and Rasha Hakki are dedicated to the preservation of Syrian historical land archaeological heritage. By participating in the project they aim to develop their expertise and at the same time built towards a future Syria.
Dr. Olivier Nieuwenhuijse has gained a rich experience working as a professional archaeologist in research projects in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and northern Iraq. His extensive fieldwork and impressive publication list have gained him a wide peer network across the countries of the Middle East, Europe, the United States and Japan. Especially relevant to this project, Nieuwenhuyse has worked extensively in the Balikh Valley of northern Syria as a staff member of the Tell Sabi Abyad project (annually from 1991 to 2008). Additionally Nieuwenhuyse has collaborated with Syrian colleagues in the research projects at Tell Beydar (with the European Centre of Upper Mesopotamian Studies) and at Tell Boueid (with the Syrian DGAM), and he has taught courses at the University of Damascus.
The Focus Raqqa project is related to the Scanning for Syria project.