From September 20th to 25th, SACIV was pleased to welcome a delegation of seven archaeologists from Iraq. While in San Antonio, they explored all of the efforts members of the community are engaged in to protect endangered cultural heritage sites and preserve all aspects of our shared history.
They began, necessarily, with an introduction and tour of the San Antonio Missions by the National Park Service. Susan Snow at NPS showed them the history and efforts to preserve the Spanish Colonial sites. She also sat down with our visitors after touring them to explain the work that the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park and the National Park Service do to ensure that future generations can appreciate the history of these places.
After a weekend of cultural activities, like touring Gruene and seeing the Alamo, the group was ready to visit more of their professional counterparts in San Antonio. The San Antonio Conservation Society told them about the role of a non-profit organization in preserving cultural heritage and elaborated on the specific projects they have undertaken to ensure historical sites are maintained and protected.
At UTSA’s Center for Archaeological Research, the delegation learned from Dr. Paul Marceaux about their work excavating, cleaning, identifying, and analyzing finds throughout the area. Their work can extend from paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies all the way to the Alamo and U.S.-influenced eras of local history. The visitors were impressed by the facilities at the Center for Archaeological Research including a stable isotope laboratory, specimen library, and report printing press. They also were very impressed by the stories and information Dr. Marceaux was able to provide about archaeology in the United States and in South Texas.
They concluded with their final appointment at the World Heritage Office of the City of San Antonio. The City’s office championed the application process for the Missions’ UNESCO World Heritage Site designation along with other groups like the Catholic Church, National Park Service, Visit San Antonio, the Chambers of Commerce, and the surrounding community. Having successfully achieved a World Heritage Site designation, Colleen Swain, the Office’s director, explained that they are working to leverage the designation in ways that benefit the community economically and socially while also ensuring that new, strict guidelines for preservation and beautification are implemented in a buffer zone around the sites.
By the end of their stay in San Antonio, the visitors from Iraq had been able to explore the historic sites of San Antonio and the work required to preserve them from a variety of angles, whether academic, governmental, or non-profit. These approaches contributed to a fuller understanding of the best archaeological and historiographical practices while also allowing plenty of time for important person-to-person relationship building and networking.