The French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences (CEFAS) recently held a training….
The French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences (CEFAS) recently held a training session at the National Museum in Sana’a for members of the Seiyun Museum Conservation Committee. The training, funded by the TOTAL oil company, was initiated by a CEFAS team of French archaeologists including Rémy Crassard, Monique Drieux and Mounir Arbach. The session lasted one week and was attended by a group of eight Yemeni archaeologists from Seiyun, Mukalla, Muharram and Sana’a. Emphasis was placed on the proper technique for documentation and exhibition of museum artifacts using computer programs such as Illustrator, PowerPoint and Adobe. The objective was to create a comprehensive online museum database. The training for the Seiyun museum comes at a time when Yemen cannot afford to ignore its immense cultural resources.
Each governorate in Yemen has a museum and most artifacts found in each area are kept in the local museum. However, due to security issues at many archaeological sites, in particular those in Hadhramaut and Marib, many pieces have been stolen. “Yemen is missing a lot of artifacts due to lack of government protection and looting. Because there is no record of many of the objects, it is difficult to keep track of them,” says Arbach. “The goal of the training is to create a sustainable environment and skills for preservation that will allow for the public recording and exhibition of objects.”
Crassard, founder of a private restoration consulting firm, World Cultural Resources, adds that “we hope to contribute to national expertise in the area of archaeology and conservation.” Such local expertise is particularly urgent as more foreign teams are being forced to leave the country due to political instability within certain governorates. “Yemenis are usually very open to foreign aid in preservation but now with the political crisis, many sites are now closed to us.” Despite popular interest in conservation efforts, Yemeni archaeologists and preservationists find that, due to lack of funding, the work does not provide for a sustainable livelihood. “There is a lot of work to be done in conservation yet we do not receive sufficient funds or training from the government,” explains Khalid al-Hagg, training participant and archaeologist under the General Organization of Museums and Antiquities. “We need leaders who actually understand the importance of this work. There are many students and faculty from Sana’a University’s Antiquities Department and many of them are without jobs. This is not right.”
Crassard echoes similar sentiments. “It is a shame that the work of archaeologists and other conservation scientists is so undervalued considering the great influence Yemen has had on the entire ancient world. Yemen had a real civilization before Islam, it is cited in the bible and is one of the first countries in the world to be Islamized. It is a culture relevant to everyone, not just Arabs,” says Crassard. Following the training was an award ceremony in which each participant received a certificate of completion and a packet detailing the entire week’s course. The hope is that the group will now have the necessary skills to improve the exhibition of the Seiyun Museum’s artifacts.