In the field with Iraq's archaeologists of the future

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Working in northern Iraq at the site of Qalatga Darband, The British Museum is training Iraqi archaeologists to preserve and study their county’s threatened heritage

Northern Iraq is spectacularly beautiful in April; the foothills of the Zagros Mountains break out in flowers, the barley shoots up in the valleys and everything is eye-wateringly green. Down by the calm waters of Lake Dokan, I’m trying to explain the mystery and wonder of single context excavation to a very nice man called Halkawt who works for the directorate of antiquities in Erbil. He’s enthusiastic, but his excavation experience is pretty limited so we’re very much starting on page one of practical archaeology.

I’m working on a project run by the British Museum aimed at training Iraqi antiquities staff in modern archaeological practice. It’s bankrolled by the Cultural Protection Fund; a £30 million pot set up by the British government to counter the destruction of cultural heritage in conflict zones, particularly as a response to the actions of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Related: Iraqi troops recapture Nimrud, site of ancient Assyrian city, from Isis

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