During the height of its power, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed and looted numerous cultural heritage sites under its control. In January 2017, it was reported that ISIS had destroyed two ancient structures in Palmyra. Cultural heritage sites are also prone to natural disasters. An earthquake that hit an ancient city in Myanmar in 2016 damaged numerous temples located there.
The dilemma of excavating sacred sites has recently made headlines worldwide as the tomb that is believed to have held the crucified Jesus was uncovered for the first time in the Holy Sepulchre. In the same month, The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declared the geographical area in Jerusalem holding the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock to be referred to only by its Arabic title “al-Haram al-Sharif”. Also, as tensions concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline continue to flare up, the problem of Native American sacred spaces comes to the forefront. These events occurring simultaneously highlight the growing importance of archaeology and ethnic identity.
One of the many reasons that weighing ethical dilemmas is such a challenge is because we’re often faced with a conflict between measurable and immeasurable value. We see this often in relation to environmental issues. Because we can’t place an exact value on the intrinsic worth of nature, we struggle to cognitively compare environmental health with economic benefits. Thus, many companies pursue profit over environmental wellness, without fully understanding the detrimental consequences. The inability to directly quantify something doesn’t entail that it is value-less or that its interest should be disregarded, but it can be awfully difficult to convince some groups of this. Continue reading “Mes Aynak’s Intrinsic Cultural Value”