Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bravo again UNESCO!

UNESCO's important role in 'preserving' world heritage....

"Byzantine frescoes, paintings by early Baroque artists and a letter by Christopher Columbus are among 31 stolen artifacts recovered by Italian police to go on show Wednesday at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters."

A fragment of a Byzantine fresco looted from the Grotta delle Formelle [Credit: Sopraprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici, Paesaggistici, Storici, Artistici ed Etnoantropologici per le Province di Caserta e Benevento, Caserta]
It seems recently that more and more often the worlds cultural heritage is being 'stolen, looted, and destroyed'; however the truth is this steeling, looting, and destroying cultural heritage are not a product of recent 'bad' times, in fact these cultural heritage crimes have deep roots in our worlds history. The difference is that in ancient times there were no satellites orbiting the earth, no cable access, no YouTube, and no iPhone recording and 'posting' the criminals every move. Today organizations such as UNESCO help not only with protecting the world heritage, but the organization makes sure that the rest of the world knows that 'dah' crime does not pay.

It is funny about criminals that attempt to steel or destroy cultural heritage. Do they really think that in today's age of technology that they will not get caught. It is like the guy that spray painted the Picasso the other day in Houston. Really??? C'mon he must have known there were cameras everywhere. Perhaps the 22-year old that defaced the painting thought that wearing a tuxedo would be the perfect disguise (James Bond movie style). I think he would have been better off if he had worn the old fashion ski mask or at least a George W. Bush mask since he was in Texas. Either way technology in today's world, along with a little reward money, ensures that even the most stylishly dressed cultural heritage criminals still find out in the end that crime does not pay.

World Cultural Heritage matters, even if you are not a Piccasso fan. Thanks UNESCO.... and all the other cultural heritage organizations out there that through education and a bit of 'show', as was done in Paris, ensure the continued protection of our world heritage.



Sunday, January 9, 2011


During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to work with an organization called 'Volunteers for Peace' where I participated in an amazing historic restoration project in Niederkaufungen, Germany that turned out to be something more than I had anticipated.  

At the time I didn't know much about where I was going or what kind of people I would be working with, but I knew I wanted to take the oppportunity to live in a small, rural community near Kassel, Germany for a few months restoring a 19th Century, Tudor Farm... so off I went via SFO to Frankfurt, then the long train ride to Kassel and finally a bus to Niederkaufungen. Lucky for me while I was waiting for the bus in Kassel I ran into another 'volunteer', who came along just in time as I was about to take the wrong bus to the wrong town.

The Tudor farm turned out to be owned by a group of utopian German families who's aim was to "build" on ecologically sustainable, non-hierarchical commune for up to 100 adults and children, which has since turned out to be the largest, secular, left-wing egalitarian community in the Germany. This all makes since now, since from the moment I arrived (being the only U.S. citizen) I was asked about George Bush and my politics. These people were serious and I was happy, though a bit stressed at first, to be a part of the renovations. 

Years later I have discovered that a short documentary film has been produced about this community

It's amazing to see how far they have come over the years and suprisingly to find out that my old boyfriend Jan is still living there, minus the suede-patch pants and long, blonde, beaded hair... here's to you Niederkaufungen, Germany for your forward thinking sustainable ways... maybe I'll come for a visit sometime in the near future. 

Enjoy the photos... 

 The Beginning...
 The 'right-wing' of the Tudor farmhouse that helped to restore.
 They have their own school on site
 They grow all their own produce and raise all their own animals...
 My favorite photo...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls and Dr. Cargill

The Dead Sea Scrolls are truly of one of the most amazing archaeological finds in history. I know we've all heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but what more do we know about them except that they are scripts of 'the word of god' found in various caves throughout the Judean desert. But why were they buried in the caves and who wrote them and what is all the fuss about Masada? 

Well it's clear now to archaeologist that the reason the scrolls were buried in various caves in Judean desert was born out of necessity. They were simply looking to preserve their sacred documents from the falling into the hands of the Romans during the time of the suppression, better known as the Jewish Revolt. The discovery of the Scrolls some 60 years ago and the first studies claimed that they were written by the Essenes, who live in Qumran. These text were found to be from the 'Jewish Bible' or the 'Old Testament', the oldest known text of the Bible. Now when I first began studying archaeology, I had a great deal of interest in Biblical Archaeology, particularly of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now the study of Biblical Archaeology does or does not mean your a religious archaeologist, but what it does mean to me is that you have a passion for a time in our history that is truly still full of mysteries.

One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls involves the last Jewish stronghold situated atop an isolated rock cliff at the western end of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea known as Masada. The story of Masada. is an epic and tragic story that is of great importance to the question "Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls", now thanks to Dr. Cargill and National Geographic this mystery is being explored as part of a National Geographic show airing July 27,

Now although I did become an Archaeologist, not a Biblical Archaeologist, I still have a great deal of passion for mysteries of the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Thanks NG and Dr. Cargill (

Stacey "Archaeologist" still fascinated with Biblical Archaeology

Monday, March 29, 2010

Remember the outskirts of Cairo when visiting the wonders of Eygpt.

Cairo, Egypt for someone like me (an archaeologist) it draws thoughts of the Great Pyramids of Giza, the ancient Mosques of Old Cairo, and the Saladin Citadel (El-Qalaa). The land of ancient Egypt is breathtaking and magical, but I am reminded that it must always be balanced with the knowledge of the people who built the amazing world of the Egyptians, the working class/slaves. Like many great structures and societies all over the world, ancient Egypt was built by thousands of  'lower class' workers/slaves who struggled for decades in the extreme heat and harsh conditions. They worked for rulers like Khufu, Khafre, and Tutankhamen to insure their own survival and the survival of their families. Now, although some 4000+/- years separate the present from Ancient Egypt's past it is important to be reminded of places located away from the tourist spots and rich cultural attractions. We must look at the outskirts of Cairo. 

With a population of 18 million, Cairo, the largest city in the Middle East and Africa, has no sanitation service. For generations, the city's residents have relied on 60,000 Zaballeen, or "garbage people," to pick up their trash. In the movie Garbage Dreams an independent film with over 20 awards this year is airing PBS in April ( The film follows the Zaballeen collection of over 3,000 tons a day of garbage. Hauling the trash back to their villages they are the world's most effective and successful recycling program. Paid only a minimal amount by residents for their garbage collection services, the Zaballeen survive by recycling. While Western cities boast only a 30% recycling rate, the Zaballeen recycle 80% of all the waste they collect. 

The Zaballeen, who mostly belong to Egypt's minority Coptic Christian community, were originally poor and illiterate farm laborers. Drive out of the rural south due to a lack of work, these disadvantaged farmers saw Cairo's trash as an economic opportunity. They have created a recycling model that costs the state nothing, recycles so much waste and employees tens of thousands of Cairo's poorest. The Zaballeen earn little, but in a country where almost half of the population survives on less than $2 a day, it is a livelihood. 

Then in 2005, following the international trend to privatize services (think Iraq war) the city of Cairo sold $50 million in annual contracts to 'three' private companies (two from Italy and one from Spain) to pick up Cairo's garbage. Their giant waste trucks now line the streets, but the irony is that their contract only obligates them to recycle 20% of what they collect, leaving the rest to rot in the giant landfills. As foreign workers came in with wast trucks and began carting garbage to nearby landfills, 60,000 Zaballeen saw their way of life disappearing. 

The movie Garbage Dreams is stunning and should be seen by all, especially if you are planning to go to Egypt anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Magic Carpet Ride to Baghdad بغداد

When I was a little girl it was my dream to go to ancient city of Baghdad. Located on the Tigris River, I imagined my transportation to this amazing city would be via my 'magic flying carpet'. To me the land of the Persians promised unimaginable excitement and grand adventures that could not be equaled by any other city in the world. Little did I now that in the 8th Century Baghdad was built to be the 'perfect city'. I dreamed of the Arabian Nights, so many times that it seemed to become real to me. On occasion I would sit down on a rug in our home in Fremont, California believing that I could wish the carpet to fly me away to Baghdad. 

Baghdad was a Mesopotamian treasure where I imagined beautiful architectural structures reaching out to the sun, the welcoming smell of the spices at the market places, the sounds of the ancient language of Persia ringing through the streets and the soft, warm breeze blowing through my delicate loose linen clothing. At this time I had no idea the history of this region, nor what was to become of it in my lifetime. While studying anthropology and archaeology the Gulf War started, and it broke my heart to find out that many of the ancient cities treasures had been stolen or destroyed. At the time the people of Baghdad could do little to nothing to stop their cultural heritage from being lost forever. When the war ended I breathed a sigh of relief, but then came the Iraq War. The museums again were looted and destroyed. Soon there were many scholars and leaders fighting not with guns, but with the drive and passion to save Iraq's cultural heritage. 

It's important to remember our past because it shapes our future and it strengthens our communities. So keep a look out for these ancient artifacts and though I never took that magic carpet ride, I do still intend to visit Baghdad someday when the fighting stops. 

Oh ... and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Celebrating Urban Farmer and Activist Will Allen...

Organic and Fresh is something that my sister and I have been striving towards since we were just out of high school.  Raising two girls on my own I think about fresh, organic and healthy all the time... while of course still tasting fabulous. While still on the search I ran across this amazing Film, Fresh: The Movie.

In July 2009: Santa Barbara Food Not Lawns and Hope Dance Films hosted a viewing of Fresh, the movie in Santa Barbara. It was a gathering of local Fresh enthusiasts including IV Food Co-op, Fairview Gardens, Avalon Farms, and Shepherd Farms.  At the gathering there was yummy and sustainable food along with the opportunity to meet local activists and local farmers. The film FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen , a 2008 MacArthur’s “Genius Award” fellow; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, who is creating a new market model for our family farmers. FRESH focuses on these inspiring individuals and their initiatives around the US providing inspiration for you to make the change in your own life.

Take a look....the beginning is a bit hard to watch, but the truth about of farming practices often stings a bit.

To FRESH families....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saving Our Vanishing Heritage....

The Cyrene Amphitheatre, erected in the Sanctuary of Apollo by Greek settlers in the 6th Century B.C., is Africa’s largest ancient Greek site. Cyrene is considered one of the most important Classical Greek sites outside of Greece, yet the site is one of the most neglected and endangered UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean Basin. Threats to the site include neglect, improper restoration and conservation intervention, looting and a lack of appropriate security protection. 

Many Archaeologists, Historic Preservationists, and Scientific Conservationists around the world are working on to save our global heritage. When the Gulf War in Iraq started in the 90s one of my major concerns was obviously for the safety of the civilians, but I also thought about their cultural sites. 

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us.”

Cultural sites say a lot about society. We learn much about ancient Mesopotamia, the Orient, the Greeks and the Romans, Norse ancestors, through the records of their buildings and their cities, parts of which have stood for millennium. These sites hold communities together. When they are wiped out by development or war we not only loose entire communities but we loose our world heritage.

Global Heritage Fund, a local non-profit organization in Palo Alto, Ca is on a mission to save the earth’s most significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in developing countries and regions through scientific excellence and community development.