Iraq is having a problem encouraging young Iraqis to train as archaeologists, according to the country’s internal media. The cause? Those who train cannot find work.
This is an astonishing state of affairs bearing mind the crying need for new domestic talent and expertise, a long-term plan for conservation and preservation, in keeping with the country’s Article 5 obligations under the UNESCO 1970 Convention and the vital importance of cultural heritage tourism to the future of the county’s economy.
“Many of Iraq’s world heritage sites lie in ruins three years after the collapse of the Islamic State and thousands of mounds conceal remnants of ancient cities,” says Al-Fanar Media. “The sites are under threat of looting and need teams of experts to unveil their treasures. But fewer young people want to study archaeology in what is regarded as the cradle of civilization, and jobs are scarce for those who do.”
Meanwhile field excavations continue, led by teams from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.
The experiences of one candidate explains their discouragement: “The graduates’ situation is painful,” Al-Obaidi said. “There are no public or private jobs for us. It has become a joke for an archaeologist to apply for jobs.”
The extent of the problem is illustrated by the University of Mosul intake: “only 28 students out of 17,000 students joined the College of Archaeology this year, according to its president, Kossay Al-Ahmady.”
“Usama Adnan, an assistant professor of history at Al-Mustansiriyah University, says the admission of only a handful of students in some of Iraq’s archaeology schools stems from “a lack of archaeological awareness.”
Al-Ahmady believes that poor pay is one of the reasons that put potential archaeologists off. Others experts give their reasons too.