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Last fall, the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative of the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) completed its first training course in the compilation of site data and the inventory and rapid assessment of archaeological and historic sites.

The course, attended by 16 employees of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) of Iraq, was held in Amman, Jordan, November 19–December 19, 2004. Fieldwork was conducted at the Amman Citadel, the Umm er-Rasas World Heritage Site, and at other historic and archaeological sites in the Amman area, thanks to the generous assistance of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. In the face of the continued looting of Iraqi archaeological sites, the training focused on techniques, methodologies, and tools for accurately locating sites and recording their condition, and on developing a national computer-based inventory of sites.

The course, which was conducted in modules, trained participants in their areas of expertise, and in developing a team approach. It also encouraged the integration of site recording, documentation, and assessment. At the end of the course, participants began verifying their work with information in the SBAH archive, and they planned future work in the inventory and assessment of site conditions. This work will form the prototype for the SBAH national site inventory database.

In conjunction with further development of the national database and of a site inventory methodology, the GCI and WMF will organize courses aimed at providing SBAH staff with tools to respond to the challenging task of protecting and managing tens of thousands of sites and historic monuments in Iraq.

The course was supported by a UNESCO grant and donation of technical equipment, including computerized survey equipment, Global Positioning System (GPS) units, and laser distance meters. In addition to teaching staff, the GCI and WMF contributed digital cameras and other technical equipment and software. Further participation and support were provided by English Heritage, the U.S. National Park Service, and numerous Jordanian and international experts, some of Iraqi origin.

The GCI-WMF Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative aims to address the catastrophic damage sustained by Iraq's cultural heritage during and in the aftermath of the 2003 war.