“Archaeological Landscapes of Central Asia”by UCL
International Institute for Central Asian Studies participates in the major project “Archaeological Landscapes of Central Asia”, which is managed by the University College London with the financial support of the “Arcadia” Fund.
The project foresees the creation of a detailed map of archaeological sites in Central Asia from China to Turkmenistan. Each of these sites has not only the history of its existence. Most of them have been rediscovered by curious and scrupulous researchers of the XX century, and the findings have filled many gaps in the databases of various scientific disciplines. It is a huge heritage, the existence of which is daily threatened due to many reasons: from natural factors to misunderstanding or malicious intent.
Cultural heritage preservation is an active process that does not tolerate inaction or negligence. Some of the directions of this process are documentation, digitalization of sites and documents with the help of modern technologies. Such a database linked to the map seems to be functionally useful and illustrative to the creators – a team from the University College London.
Formally, the work in the region began with a series of workshops held in Samarkand on May 19-24, 2019 under the guidance of the UCL team. These events were attended by specialists from Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Here's what the project's supervisor from UCL, Gaigysyz Jorayev, told us about himself and the project's particularities.
– I'm Gaigysyz Jorayev, I'm a researcher at UCL. I have two or three working areas. At this stage, one of them is the most important. I teach at the master's level. I have two groups. One of the courses – "Archaeological Heritage Management" – has being given to me by Professor Tim Williams. Another course where I am participating is entitled "Heritage: Globalization and Development". You don't see this part of the work when you work with us.
The second part of my work is related to the Arcadia Fund projects. For example, a project to document Buddhist temple paintings or to create a cultural heritage map in the Arches database.
Besides, I'm currently working in Khiva with the World Tourism Organization. I will be conducting a training course on cultural tourism to prevent the heritage from being destroyed.
– Will the "Archaeological Landscapes of Central Asia" project be successful?
– I have no doubt about that. The final result will be great and successful in any case.
– Participants are concerned about whether Chinese colleagues will provide passports for their sites?
– You wouldn't believe it, but China is the easiest thing at the moment. Impressions about countries can be wrong. For example, on the first day of the workshop, participants said that Russia didn't give them the archive materials. This is not true. I know at least five projects in which Russia is digitalizing its archives, and more is being done on its territory than in the territory of the whole Central Asia. Everything depends on the level of response and decision-making. The same is true for China.
The need for such projects in your region is also becoming evident to the authorities.
– Which result of the project will be considered as satisfying?
– In 5 years, I expect to see a result that will be useful to everyone. Our team will be satisfied when someone uses our data. We have no interest in this project – to write a book, an article or use it in our academic development. On the contrary, we want to transfer our knowledge, skills and results. This is our contribution to the preservation of the world's cultural heritage.