Dr Pascal Flohr writes about the STAC8 conference:
The eighth international conference on Science and Technology in Archaeology and Conservation (STAC8) took place in Amman, Jordan, from 21 to 25 May 2017. Its main organisers were WATCH and CULTECH Jordan,¹ and the conference took place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Jordan, UNESCO, and ICCROM.
Since its first event 15 years ago, the STAC conference has aimed to bring together participants from different disciplines, including academia, NGOs, Departments of Antiquities, and other heritage organisations. The main focus of the conference series is the role of science and technology in the documentation, conservation, and protection of cultural heritage worldwide.
In Amman, a varied group of people came together, ranging from conservation specialists with natural sciences backgrounds to staff of the Department of Antiquities in Jordan and NGOs like UNESCO and ICCROM. It was very useful to hear the different perspectives that people have on documenting, conserving, and protecting heritage, because some brought new advances and techniques in conservation to the table, while others were much more concerned with the legal side and the need for clear policies for protection. Case studies of conservation projects were presented, such as on the stabilisation of the Petra Siq (“Gorge”), carried out by UNESCO Jordan. From many of the talks it became clear that involving the local community is key to preserving archaeology.
On behalf of the whole team, I presented the EAMENA Project at the conference. Due to the varied background of the attendants, and the fact that many of them might not have heard about the project before, I gave a general introduction to the project and its aims. I mainly focused on how the project and our methodology of using remote sensing and a freely available database can help in documenting, monitoring, and protecting cultural heritage. Other projects using remote sensing were present too, such as TerraWatchers (directed by Stephen Savage), and it was very useful to exchange ideas with these other specialists as well as to get input from people unfamiliar with remote sensing.
The conference started in the ‘traditional’ way of papers being presented in parallel sessions. The last two days of the conference, however, were dedicated to a round table discussion trying to bring together the multidisciplinary papers of the previous days and work towards using the new information to move the protection of heritage forward. As a first step, the group came up with a document with suggestions for ‘best practices’, which can be found at http://watch-events.eyeonculture.net/stac8/amman-declaration/. I am glad to say that EAMENA is already adhering to the best practice for documentation outlined in the document.
For me, the two main points from the conference, were, firstly, the need for different disciplines to speak to each other and, secondly, the importance of involving local communities.
1 WATCH is a non-profit network of cultural heritage stakeholders and experts; CULTECH stands for Cultural Technologies for Heritage and Conservation and is a Jordanian organisation set up for the protection of cultural heritage and the environment.