ISIS Targets Humanity’s Shared History

WORLD

National Geographic Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert puts into perspective Islamic State’s recent, widely publicized destruction of artifacts and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria. (National Geographic News)

Learn why globe-traveling archaeologist Fred Hiebert thinks “being an educator” is the most exciting part of his job.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Hiebert remembers “In October 2001, I gave a map quiz on Central Asia in my seminar on the Silk Road. I realized a lot of my students couldn’t find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map. Here we [the U.S.] were in two major conflicts, and these smart college kids didn’t know where these places were.” Use today's MapMaker Interactive map to get an idea of where ISIS is destroying or looting our shared cultural heritage. All the information in the map came from this Nat Geo News article.

Hiebert remembers “In October 2001, I gave a map quiz on Central Asia in my seminar on the Silk Road. I realized a lot of my students couldn’t find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map. Here we [the U.S.] were in two major conflicts, and these smart college kids didn’t know where these places were.” Use today’s MapMaker Interactive map to get an idea of where ISIS is destroying or looting our shared cultural heritage. All the information in the map came from this Nat Geo News article.

Discussion Ideas

 

  • Why is ISIS destroying ancient treasures and archaeological sites? This Nat Geo News article might give you some help.
    • Many ISIS members are intent on destroying depictions of pre-Islamic religion or spirituality.
    • Critically, not all treasures or sites targeted by ISIS are being destroyed. A huge number of artifacts are being looted, or stolen, to finance ISIS’ political goals. These items are being sold on the lucrative international black market.

 

  • Watch the video above. Nat Geo Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert says that some of the artifacts destroyed or looted by ISIS are “Biblical in age.” (:20) What does this mean?
    • It means the artifacts were created around the same time that parts of the Hebrew Bible were being recorded—thousands of years before the Common Era (BCE).

 

 

  • Why does Hiebert think we in the West should be concerned about the sacking of Iraq and Syria?
    • The sites and artifacts are “unrenewable cultural resources,” Hiebert says, part of the history of humanity itself. This is, after all, the so-called “Cradle of Civilization,” where some of the earliest examples of written language, agriculture, and urban life developed.
    • These sites “belong to all of us; it’s all part of human history. When we see the destruction of something that’s as far away as Iraq, it’s part of our heritage, our concern. We should care about those artifacts, and that history, because it’s our history, too.”

 

  • Despite the appalling video and destruction of archaeological treasures, Hiebert, like all good educators, remains defiantly hard-working and even optimistic. What does he think will happen to the destroyed objects in Iraq and Syria? Take a look at :55 in the video.
    • Hiebert is insistent that ISIS’ attempt to erase elements of our shared humanity will ultimately fail. “That’s impossible to do,” he says. “Human history is there, it’s permanent. It’s part of all our heritage . . . At the end of the day, we [archaeologists and global citizens] will put the pieces back together.”

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: On ISIS Destruction: Human History “Is Permanent”

Nat Geo: On ISIS’s Path of Ruin, Many Sites of Global Importance

Nat Geo: Archaeologist: Dr. Fredrik Hiebert

Nat Geo: Archaeological Sites Targeted by ISIS map

Nat Geo: What is ISIS?

3 responses to “ISIS Targets Humanity’s Shared History

  1. Pingback: ISIS Threatens Iraqi Wildlife | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Can Palmyra Be Repaired in Five Years? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  3. Pingback: World Monuments at Risk of Disappearing | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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