Southeastern Turkey

For decades southeastern Turkey has been the scene of ongoing conflict between the Turkish government and the Kurdish rebels. In the last fifteen years, the Turkish government has been implementing the GAP project, a controversial energy and irrigation project that has seen the development of over eighteen dams in the region. These dams have flooded countless archaeological sites dating back ten thousand years, including the important

Roman site of Zeugma along the Euphrates river. They have also led to the displacement of thousands of Kurdish citizens, impacting their life and cultural traditions.
The ancient archaeological site of Hasankeyf along the Tigres river, pictured above, and the lives of eighty thousand Kurdish villagers, are currently under threat by the building of the Ilisu dam.

The Ilisu Dam

In 2008 a consortium of European Export Credit Agencies from France, Germany and Switzerland were preparing to release 1.2BN Euros in funding for the controversial Ilisu dam project that would flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf and displace up to eighty thousand Kurdish villagers. Micah Garen and Marie-Helene Carleton covered the issue for the Financial Times Magazine. After significant media attention in Europe about the impact of the project, the European ECAs withdrew their support. The Turkish government, however, plans to press ahead with the construction of the dam.

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Mesopotamia is where modern civilization began.  Known as the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of writing, it is the beginning of recorded history.  It’s archaeological sites, still being excavated and studied, are of extraordinary importance for world history.

Sites in southern Iraq, primarily the Sumerian and Akkadian sites in the Dhi Qar province near Nasiriyah, have been heavily looted and remain vulnerable to the perils of unrestrained development and continued looting.

What We Are Doing

  • Working with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage to identify ways to help protect archaeological sites in the south
  • Promoting an understanding of Iraq's cultural heritage around the world through lectures, discussions and films
  • Helping Iraqi scholars study abroad, and use that knowledge in Iraq

The ancient Sumerian site of Umma

In 2004, following the war in Iraq, archaeological sites across southern Iraq were being looted en masse. Up to two hundred looters worked night after night digging up sites such as the ancient Sumerian city of Umma. We spent six months on the ground documenting the looting, and publishing accounts in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine and Archaeology Magazine. We also raised $10,000 from the Carr Foundation to provide salaries for archaeological guards to work at Umma for four months until the government was able to provide a protection force. The guards were able to stop the looting during that period, but the looting has since continued due to lack of funding.


The archaeological history of Afghanistan has been decimated by twenty-five years of armed conflict. Even so, there are countless sites worth preserving, and many opportunities to help, such as the protection of Alexander's Castle in Qalat, which is currently being used as a military barracks.

Education is critical in Afghanistan for the long term preservation of its cultural history. Most Afghans have little or no knowledge of their own history. We are creating a series of illustrated educational books for school children about the history of Afghanistan to provide the basis for a future generation that will care for the past.

What We Are Doing

  • Identifying sites most in need of protection
  • Developing plans to help protect sites with the government and cultural sponsors
  • Provide books for school children to help engage them and teach them about their own history

Alexander's Castle in Qalat

Many of Afghanistan's archaeological sites are in a state of complete abandon after twenty five years of conflict. In the center of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province in Southern Afghanistan, a giant mound, the remains of one of Alexander The Great's castles, towers over the city. Today there are no efforts to protect it. A derelict tea-house built for a single visit to the region by Hamid Karzi sits atop the citadel, while the rest of the area is used as an Afghan Army garrison. We are working with local partners to develop a plan to protect the site until it can be properly preserved in the future.