Syrian Cultural Heritage Inventory: Researching Tell Beydar

By Charlotte Watiez, George Washington University

My name is Charlotte Watiez and I am currently a Virtual Student Federal Services intern, working with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative for the 2017-2018 academic year. Since early September, I have been able to work on the Syrian Cultural Heritage Inventory. Each intern was assigned a data set of around 300 sites, which we then went through, site by site, breaking them up into four categories, as well as checking the cultural, historical and state affiliation of each individual cultural heritage site. Most of the sites in my data set have pointed to various archeological sites around the country, as well as many mosques and Roman fortresses that are locally significant. Many of my sites are known well to the people in the district or governorate that the site is located in, but are not necessarily known throughout the entire country or on the international stage. I found it particularly interesting that Syria had such a wide Roman history and that it had so much influence on Syrian architecture, as we normally do not learn about this aspect of the Roman Empire. Syrian culture is more likely to be closely associated with the rise of Islamic influence. Through my research, I have been able to learn more about Syria’s complex cultural heritage.

Picture taken from Harvard University, Tell Beydar, https://scholar.harvard.edu/jasonur/pages/tell-beydar

Picture taken from Harvard University, Tell Beydar, https://scholar.harvard.edu/jasonur/pages/tell-beydar

One of the sites that I found particularly fascinating is Tell Beydar. Tell Beydar is an ancient archeological village, located in the Tell Beydar region of Northeast Syria, dating back to the Early Bronze Age. It was mostly excavated in the late 1990s by a team headed by Jason Ur, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. Ur has directed many archeological field surveys in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran and is currently working on an archeological survey of Erbil Plain, in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Like many of his Syrian Bronze Age excavations, almost 250 cuneiform tablets, as well as fragments of ceramic pottery, were discovered at the site, indicating the past presence of Mesopotamian civilization.

Tell Beydar stood out as different from other archeological sites in my data set. While most of the archeological sites I had previously dealt with were only locally significant, the fact that this site had been excavated by a Harvard professor indicated that this site had been known on the international stage. While doing additional research on this site, this reaffirmed the importance of protecting cultural heritage sites around the world. Even though many archeological sites have been excavated time and time again, each time finding different artifacts, the historical significance of these sites is invaluable. As an anthropology major, I am eager to continue my work with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative on a topic, such as cultural heritage preservation, that I have become particularly passionate about since the start of my college career.

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