EDUCATION \ SITE PRESENTATION \ 23t
1: G. Buccellati, July 2009
The presentThe "Jezirah," as the northeastern part of Syria is called in Arabic (i.e., the "island," the area seen on a map between the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates) is not at present the target of organized tourism. Even among Syrians of the great western cities, from Damascus to Aleppo, the region holds no appeal. As a result, the vast majority of our visitors are locals, from the district (mantaqa) of Qamishli, and to a more limited extent from the province (muhafadha) of Hassaka.
Typically the few visitors who come from farther away are "locals" in another sense; they belong to the archaeology "guild," as it were: they know about the site from their technical interest in the field, and they come not for touristic, but for scholarly reasons.
Back to top
A surrealistic effort?Because of this very localized scope of our "constituency," my commitment to site presentation seems almost surrealistic, as a friend and colleague jokingly put it – as if in a Calvino story. In some ways, this comment was meant as a compliment, and so I took it. For, apt at it is the moment even in a negative sense, the qualification may be viewed as quite positive for what it projects in the future.
Free from the compulsion to produce something along the pre-established parameters of the tourism industry, I feel that we can develop our own standards, which I hope might influence, rather than being subjected to, the standard approach. Thus the nature of the conservation effort, the type of signage, the emphasis on the archaeological process as well as on the monumental display – all of this may at first seem to appeal to such an elite audience as to be of little interest to mass tourism. My conviction is, instead, that if careful attention is paid to a graduated approach, even casual visitors become intrigued by something visually and conceptually understandable, and will respond in kind.
Back to top
The futureIt is in any case apparent that it will be possible to develop structures prepared for elite tourism so that they may be suitable for mass tourism, but not the other way around. This can be accomplished, for example, through an accurate selection of signs that may be highlighted in some special way; through a greater availability of flyers and brochures; through introductory audio-visual presentations. All of this would be especially suitable for groups led by guides, when there would be less or no possibility for individual perusal of the extensive signage already available. But the signage would remain there for later individual visits by those among the group who are enticed to return for a calmer confrontation with the archaeology itself.
There is also another aspect that is important for the future. The plans we are making for an Eco-archaeological Park, once implemented, will increase the appeal and offer another setting from which to look at the archaeology of the High Mound. This will remain a central component of the system, and provide the fulcrum for a regional approach to the archaeology of the Jezirah.
Back to top