“Some have become a burden on the antiquities authorities,” he said, explaining that of the 460 graduates he hired last year as culture minister, he considered less than 10 percent to be fully qualified. “I would prefer raising the admission requirements and admitting fewer students,” he said.
Ali Hussein, an archaeologist at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, agrees.
“I would prefer having 11 students who are really passionate about archaeology than having 70 careless students who would seek other jobs later on,” he said. “We already have many archaeologists in Iraq. Having fewer students will make employing them easier.”
Changing How Archaeology Is Taught
Al-Hamdani thinks the situation calls for curricular reform.
Archaeology departments at “foreign universities teach zooarchaeology, anthropology, ethnography and pure sciences,” he said. “In Iraq, we just focus on history and describing artifacts, buildings and temples.”
Al-Hamdani is planning to hold workshops in collaboration with Durham University to train Iraqi students on writing papers and editing research articles. “I would be so pleased to develop a handful of well-trained archaeologists in order to revive Iraq’s archaeological schools,” he said.
Al-Ahmady, of the University of Mosul, thinks the country lacks an awareness “of how to exploit the economic capabilities of antiquities.”
“Antiquities are one of Iraq’s strengths,” said Al-Ahmady, who has worked to obtain support for joint projects and cooperation with Britain, Germany and Italy in this field.
The University of Mosul is a partner with the Banuu project, a European Union-funded initiative for employability and entrepreneurship of Iraqi students in archaeology and cultural heritage, in collaboration with Iraqi, Italian and Turkish universities.
The university is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities to launch a joint excavation in collaboration with the University of Bologna, in Italy, which runs the Banuu project.
“If approved, our students and the university will be busy for years with excavations,” said Al-Ahmady. “According to the joint preliminary studies, we expect to get quite a lot.”