Gil Stein is Director of the Chicago Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation and Professor of Archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. From 2002 to 2017 he served as Director of the Oriental Institute. He received his BA in Archaeology from Yale University and his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. His research investigates ancient economies, the archaeology of colonialism, inter-regional interaction, the development of the earliest urbanized states in the Near East, zooarchaeology, and the preservation of cultural heritage. He has directed excavations at the Uruk period Mesopotamian trading colony of Hacınebi in Turkey (3700 BC), at the Ubaid period site of Tell Zeidan in Syria (ca 5300-3800 BC), and is currently excavating at the 6th-4th millennium BC town of Surezha in the Kurdistan region of Northeast Iraq. Since 2012 he has led the US State Department-funded partnership between the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul and the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Partnership projects include museum outreach and education programs for high school students, training National Museum curators and conservators, restoring early Buddhist sculptures damaged by the Taliban, and conducting the first full inventory of the Museum's collections.
Paper: "Preserving Cultural Heritage Along the Silk Road: University of Chicago Projects in Central Asia and Afghanistan"
Abstract: The cultural heritage of the Silk Road countries in Central Asia and Afghanistan is at risk from four main factors: a) conflict, b) looting for the illicit antiquities market, c) population growth and urbanization, and d) rapid economic development. These risks vary from country to country, but together they are part of a global cultural heritage crisis of historically unprecedented proportions. The heritage crisis threatens the tangible heritage of objects, monuments, and sites, while also endangering the intangible heritage of traditional crafts, knowledge, music, art, literature, and languages. We need to remedy not only existing and ongoing heritage destruction, but we must also act pro-actively to preserve heritage-at-risk to preserve and protect it from future damage.
This paper presents an overview of five remedial and pro-active projects that the University of Chicago is conducting to preserve cultural heritage in Afghanistan and the five Central Asian republics. In Afghanistan, the primary risks stem from the devastation of the country by conflict and looting for the illicit antiquities trade. By contrast, in the five Central Asian republics, our projects are pro-active initiatives to train heritage professionals and build capacity to protect heritage threatened by population growth, urbanization, and rapid economic development. One of the most effective ways to preserve endangered heritage in this region is to encourage shared standards, strategies and best practices through regional scale cooperation among the nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.