The Importance of Cultural Heritage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Thankfully MSU students typically have no trouble finding something green to wear today.

In the past week, the intentional destruction of archaeology sites and materials by ISIS has been making headlines. If you’re not familiar with the situation an excellent summary can be found on CNN. This brazen disrespect for cultural heritage resonated across the archaeological community. In an interview on NPR Iraqi archaeologist Abdulamir al-Hamdani described the destruction from an archaeologists viewing, “… seeing heritage of Iraq being looted. It’s not only Iraq’s heritage, it’s the heritage of the world. It’s the memory of the humankind”(source). UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova declared, “the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime”(source).

This issue, and the subsequent online discussion, got me thinking about the importance of the work we do at campus archaeology. Each community, be it as large as a county or as small as a university campus, contains a distinctive cultural heritage. Campus archaeology works to mitigate and protect the archaeological resources on MSU’s campus. The physical remains of this legacy needs to be maintained not just for the present population of students and staff, but also for past and future Spartans. The material culture we examine on campus represents much more than the physical objects to MSU culture.

Today, there are over 532,000 living MSU alumni worldwide (source). Over half a million people share the experience of attending MSU. The work done here, and else where to protect cultural heritage is important to maintain cultural memories. And although historic ceramics, or documenting the remains of an old are clearly different than the endangered objects in Iraq, the impetus behind protecting the resources is the same.

It was recognized that we needed a campus archaeology program because it’s important to MSU as a larger culture to preserve the past to protect the future. Even though Iraq isn’t directly a part of many of our heritages, we can recognize that its part of our larger heritage as humans… the same as MSU.



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