Iraq study hit by death of Briton

July 23, 2004

The sudden death of an Oxford archaeologist has ended British university involvement in a US-led project to rebuild Iraq's capacity to study its antiquities.

US coordinators of the project tried to find a UK collaborator to replace Assyriologist Jeremy Black, who died in May. But they ran out of time. They have to operate a summer school in Jordan for more than 50 Iraqi archaeologists.

The restoration of the discipline in Iraq after decades of isolation headed the list of university projects announced by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

But Dr Black died only two weeks after a visit to the US to plan this summer's programme, which began last month.

Elizabeth Stone, professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said: "This means, unfortunately, that not only do we not have his contribution, which is very much missed, but we no longer have a partnership with a British university. We searched for a replacement - the first person who we approached is at Cambridge University but he was already committed for the summer."

Oxford is the only non-US university in the consortium, which is to receive more than $4 million (£2.4 million) from USAid as part of a recovery programme for Iraqi universities. The project is one of three announced by the US last year.

The summer school is located across the Syrian border instead of in Iraq.

Workshops are running for ten weeks and are divided into two five-week sessions. There are 55 Iraqi participants.

Paul Zimansky, professor of archaeology at Boston University, and Professor Stone are in Syria for the entire programme. They will conduct a follow-up trip to Iraq in early September.

Other faculty include Alan Warmsley, associate professor at the Carsten Niebuhr Institute at the University of Copenhagen; Assyriologist Daniel Snell of the University of Oklahoma; Jennifer Pournelle, an anthropological archaeologist from Stony Brook; Marian Feldman, an assistant professor from the University of California, Berkeley; and Yale archaeologists Kathryn Slanski and Eckard Frahm.

Professor Stone is to describe archaeological methods that have been developed in the past 15 to 20 years and how these have been used in specific projects. Weekly trips to Jordanian sites will be supplemented by a visit to Petra.

The Iraqi academics also chose practical sessions in computer-based skills and how to prepare a research paper for publication in a foreign journal.

  • Oxford's faculty of Oriental studies has announced a Jeremy Black Memorial Fund for Assyriology.

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