October 09, 2006

 

Fort sounds Drum for cultural-heritage awareness

AP just published another article (Kates) on Dr. Laurie Rush, the archaeologist at Fort Drum in New York State's North Country. I reviewed an earlier article before (Mattingly). Kates: "So with $165,000 in funding from the Department of Defense Legacy Program, Rush and the post's Integrated Training Area Management unit has begun to heighten the cultural sensitivity of the soldiers and pilots who train at Fort Drum, including building mock cemeteries and archaeological ruins and developing a field guide. ... Fort Drum, located near the U.S.-Canadian border, has a rich archaeological history with dozens of American Indian sites spread throughout the sprawling 105,000-acre post. ... 'Here we are barring them from the sites at Fort Drum, and then asking them to occupy a[n Iraqi] World Heritage site [i.e., Babylon] in a responsible way having failed to teach them how to act in a responsible way,' she said. So Rush's small staff took steps to preserve Sterlingville, one of six North Country communities erased by the federal government in 1941 so it could expand Fort Drum." (for more on Sterlingville, see Snyder)

Kates: "Across the road, ... sit the fake ruins and cemetery that Rush and her staff built using concrete, plywood and paint. The cylindrical ruins are modeled after ruins in Uruk that are believed to be 4,000 to 5,000 years old. Rush's crew plans to soon add a mosque. ... a second fake Muslim cemetery and another set of ruins are set up just outside a small fabricated village. The cemetery sits on a bend in the road in a spot that affords good fighting position, Rush said. Like they are in the Middle East, the markers are plain, unadorned and face toward Mecca. Arabic blessings are imprinted into the concrete in the walls of the ruins. 'This helps trains soldiers to immediately identify cultural features so troops don't waste valuable time during combat operations,' she said. She recounts one incident where a commanding officer had his troops put up a communications tower on the top of a pile of rubble, not realizing it was a tell – an artificial mound covering the successive remains of ancient communities. The unit started erecting a security fence when they began digging up artifacts. They had to stop, take down the fence and move the tower." [oops!] I found a bit more information in an earlier article (Cutshaw) published in the base newspaper: "'We started the process in April [2006] and started planning for the process with the Air National Guard,' Rush said. 'Aerial gunnery is an issue because sometimes excavated sites in the classical world look like fighting positions because they are excavated in nice trench shapes. People sometimes use them because they are relatively safe. The Air National Guard has crews going overseas, and they want their pilots to know the difference. They teach them to avoid certain targets while aiming at others,' she added. 'We will soon be constructing a mock cemetery on Range 48, and that will be one of the avoidance targets.'" By the way, the stacked cylinders in the rotating photo set I include above, could they really be a rough imitation of a Stiftmosaik from the late 3rd millennium BC (for examples from Uruk, see the Metropolitan Museum and the Oriental Institute)? If so, they're too large and also not pointed. Furthermore, cone mosaics are a rare find so not very helpful to prepare soldiers for normal archaeological sites in Iraq. But maybe I'm missing something?

I notice that apart from Mattingly Dr. Roger Ulrich is not mentioned in any of the articles. Kates only has an oblique reference to "developing a field guide." I don't know if one should draw any conclusions from that. Mattingly: "Classics professor Roger Ulrich will begin working soon to develop training materials aimed at helping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan prevent damage to important archeological sites." "Because Ulrich is a classical archeologist, meaning he specializes in Greek and Roman archeology, he hopes to rely on his students' research to supplement his own knowledge. 'I don't really work in the Middle East at all,' Ulrich said." "Ulrich hopes to begin work on the project this summer and continue it into the fall, and the Defense Department hopes to complete work on the materials approximately one year from now. The materials will include a general instruction manual, 100,000 packs of playing cards carrying cultural and historical information and 50,000 laminated sheets for troops in the field to help them recognize and protect historically sensitive areas." As I remarked before: wouldn't a Mesopotamian archaeologist be more appropriate, e.g., Dr. Sam Paley at SUNY in Buffalo? Still wondering... Anyway, Dr. Ulrich's web page, for example, still doesn't refer in any way to this. However, Dartmouth's Peer Academic Link site has Classics student Craig Dent stating that one of his projects will be focused on this.

References
• N. Snyder, "The Rebirth of Sterlingville," in Environmental Update. A Quarterly Publication of Army Environmental News, online, 18, 1 (Winter 2006)
• E. Mattingly, "Prof. to train soldiers to preserve sites," in The Dartmouth (New Hampshire), April 26, 2006
• J.B. Cutshaw, "Post archaeologist will train Soldiers to preserve historic sites," in Fort Drum Blizzard (New York), online, June 22, 2006
• "Military builds mock archaeological ruins and Muslim cemetery on Fort Drum range," in Newswatch 50 (WWTI; New York), July 11, 2006
• W. Kates, "Army archaeologist seeks to heighten soldiers' sensitivity," in Rutland Herald (Vermont), October 8, 2006
• "Classical Studies," in [Dartmouth College] Peer Academic Link (New Hampshire), online, n.d.



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