Improving the Protection of Cultural Property During Armed Conflict

Submitting Institution

Newcastle University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Architecture
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Law and Legal Studies: Law

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Summary of the impact

Since 2005 Professor Peter Stone's research has explored what we tolerate as acceptable, and crucially, what we view as unacceptable, practice during armed conflict in relation to the protection of cultural property. It has investigated, within the context of jus in bello [the morality of what is done during war], the way in which we wage war and, by implication, the very nature of war itself. This research has impacted on: NGOs; national policy makers (including the HM Government); and the international military:

  • NGOs and civil society: Prioritising the agenda of NGOs and civil society organisations. Measurable through: non-academic publications; media activity; organisational prize; and moves towards the adoption of this research as policy.
  • National Policy makers: Influencing UK and international policy, and HM Government parliamentary business. Measurable through: work with Select Committee; written questions; meetings with and action by government ministers; and contributions to the Iraq Inquiry.
  • UK, NATO and international armed forces: Modifying the doctrine of UK and international armed forces. Measurable in: invitations to workshops; development of training modules.

Underpinning research

This impact case study begins with Stone's 2008 co-edited book The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq (1). Destruction comprised 28 chapters mainly written by those Americans, Europeans and Iraqis heavily involved in the protection of cultural property in Iraq before, during, and after the 2003 invasion. These included Stone's (2005) article `The identification and protection of cultural heritage during the Iraq conflict: a peculiarly English tale' (2) which outlined his work as archaeological advisor to the UK Ministry of Defence and identified a series of 18 points for future action. Destruction was part diary of events, part identification and analysis of issues, and part draft strategy for future cooperation between cultural heritage experts and the military. The research provided a baseline of knowledge about what went wrong in Iraq, and about what the relationship between cultural heritage experts and the military (in particular) could be. It highlighted as a major issue the failure of the UK to ratify the `1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999' (Hague Convention).

One issue raised in Destruction was the belief that by working with the military cultural heritage experts `provided academic and cultural legitimacy to the invasion' and were part of a wider `ethical crisis' in archaeology (Hamilakis, Y. 2003, Public Archaeology, 2: 107). This issue was addressed, and contextualised, in Stone's 2011 edited book Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military (3). The 18 contributions to this book included: an historical overview; chapters focusing on religious, medical, and indigenous relations with the military; and chapters revolving around how any relationship might develop. Taken together they underscored the complexity of the relationship whilst emphasising its importance if cultural property is to be better protected in future conflicts.

Stone's research has broadened to investigate the wider relationship between cultural property protection and human rights (4) and on the development of a four-tier approach to cultural property protection and co-operation: long term; immediate pre-deployment; during conflict; post conflict (5). This framework is intended to influence military doctrine and practice and the development of a proactive and effective response from the cultural heritage community. Future research is planned to comprise an historic overview of cultural property protection and iconoclasm and then focus on the interconnected areas of international humanitarian law, trade in illicit antiquities, and the development of good practice within the military and related organisations and agencies. Stone is currently working with UK Blue Shield Committee to develop an AHRC Research Networking Scheme to support this work.

Professor Peter Stone was appointed to the University in 1997, as Director of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) in 2000, and as Head of the School of Arts and Cultures in 2006.

References to the research

1) Stone, P., Bajjaly, J.F. (eds.) (2008) The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, Boydell Press, Woodbridge. Paperback 2009. (224 pp). REF2 output: 138293. Book sales (UK and US): 820 copies


2) Stone, P. (2005) `The Identification and Protection of Cultural Heritage during the Iraq Conflict: A Peculiarly English Tale'. Antiquity, 79:306: 933-943. (Prefaced by the journal editor as: `This is history, heritage, regulation and perhaps even legislation in the making'.)


3) Stone, P. (ed.) (2011) Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military, Boydell Press, Woodbridge. (230pp). REF2 output: 170431.


4) Stone. P. (2012) `Human Rights and Cultural Property Protection in Times of Conflict' International Journal of Heritage Studies, 18:3: 271-284. REF2 output: 185013. DOI:10.1080/13527258.2012.651737


5) Stone, P. (2013) `A Four-Tier Approach to the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict'. Antiquity, 87:335: 166-177. REF2 output: 185007. (Prefaced by the editor as a `vitally important article... [and] important... that the author and his associates continue their campaign and are supported by everyone who believes that cultural property has a value that lies beyond sectional interests. Read prior to publication by a retired commander of the British Field Army who commented: `I think your basic 4-step approach is sound...What you propose is very possible and the mechanisms are there to introduce it'. Article to be reproduced in the 2013 (Winter Issue) of the professional army journal British Army Review).


Details of the impact

While all of the research noted above has contributed to the impact, the key text to-date is Stone's 2008 book (co-edited with J.F. Bajjaly) The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. This has impacted on three specific groupings: NGOs; national policy makers (including HM Government); and the international military.

NGOs and civil society

The UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC), an independent, civil society organisation providing policy advice to government in the fields of UNESCO's competence, requested a copy of the hardback edition of Destruction. With the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, it part-funded the paperback edition in order that it be available to the widest possible audience. Destruction was awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's (AIA) 2011 James R Wiseman book award. The citation for the award includes the following statement about the value of Destruction: `The authors....respond to popular perception of events that gained international attention and challenge the reader to fully comprehend the context of each episode. As a result, this book has the ability to open a wider dialogue between specialists and the general public about cultural heritage issues that resonate on a global scale' (IMP1).

Destruction was highlighted as `Book of the Week' in the Times Higher Education (31 July 2008), where it was described as: `an extraordinary achievement that will stand as the definitive account of the desperate, avoidable cultural tragedy of Iraq for many years to come' (IMP2). Destruction was the subject of a three-page article in the Big Issue (May 2009) and material from the book was used by journalist Robert Fisk in his front-page story in the Independent (5 August 2012).

In 2009 the UKNC also sponsored the travelling version of the exhibition Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past - produced by Stone in conjunction with the Oriental Institute in Chicago as the result of links made during the writing of Destruction. Catastrophe! has been shown at eight UK and European venues including Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham, London, Dublin, and The Hague. Visitor feedback (IMP3) on Catastrophe! has been extremely positive, including: "wonderfully informative"; "dreadful about the destruction: good to see the issues are made public"; "both saddening and inspiring"; "An excellent, shocking and truly important exhibition"; "Too grim for words; but makes people think". The last showing, at the Great North Museum, Newcastle (July-August 2012) was accompanied by a series of four public lectures (one by Stone) each of which attracted 40+ members of the general public, which is a high number for such events at this venue. Overall the exhibition reached an estimated public and specialist audience of c.10,000.

In addition to this publication and exhibition activity Stone has also brought the issue of cultural protection to the attention of wider popular audiences via his contribution to BBC Radio, including on Radio Newcastle (15 May 2008), Radio 5's `Up all night' programme (10 June 2008), and on Radio 4's `World this Weekend (1 April 2012).

National Policy makers, HM Government

A copy of the Destruction book was requested by the Parliamentary Select Committee scrutinising the Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Bill in 2008. The Committee noted the value of the book in providing an informed context for their deliberations and referred specifically to information in the book in paragraph 9 of the report (IMP4). In 2009 the UKNC asked the author to draft written evidence to be submitted to the Iraq (Chilcot) Inquiry. This evidence was submitted, with a copy of Destruction, under the signature of 13 cultural heritage organisations to the Inquiry in February 2010. In a letter dated 19 April 2010 the Inquiry Chairman noted that Destruction was `...very useful to the Inquiry..." and that he was "...very grateful to [the author] for sharing his expertise...' (IMP5). In 2012 Stone wrote a Policy Brief for UKNC on `The value to the UK of ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999'. In 2012 Stone worked with his local MP to table a written question on the likely timing of ratification of the Hague Convention. As a result of this research Stone has met with the relevant ministers for the previous and current governments. These meetings and the above pressure from the UKNC and others, all led by Stone, led directly to the Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (unsuccessfully) requesting formally Parliamentary time during the 2012/13 Session for passing legislation to enable the UK to ratify the Hague Convention. DCMS staff have confirmed they anticipate making a similar request for the next Parliamentary session.

UK, NATO and international armed forces

The publication of Destruction has led to invitations to speak at a number of military symposia dealing with cultural property protection (CPP) including the Sustaining Military Readiness Conference, US Department of Defence (2009); Cultural Property Protection in Times of Conflict, Netherlands Ministry of Defence (2009); Cultural Property Protection, Norwegian Ministries of Environment and Defence (2011); Coping with Culture, German Bundeswehr (2011); Culture in Conflict, UK Defence Academy (2012); Coping with Culture, NATO Civilian/Military Centre of Excellence (CIMIC-COE), The Netherlands (2012). Impact has been incremental as Stone has gained the trust of the military. For example he was: asked to chair the whole 2009 Dutch Symposium mentioned above and to submit a report and recommendations to the Netherlands MoD as a result of meeting military personnel at earlier meetings; invited to the 2011 Coping with Culture meeting by the Bundeswehr as the result of contacts made at the 2009 Dutch meeting; invited to the 2012 meeting at CIMIC-COE at which he was asked to return to work on the development of a training module for middle-ranking officers on cultural property protection for NATO, for which a draft syllabus has now been developed. Commenting on Stone's work in this area, a senior CIMIC-COE staff member stated that: `were it not for the past work, expertise and dedication of Prof. Stone, the project would have never moved farther along than the concept....His impact on both sides of the civil-military equation, in the area of joint education and training, has been significant' (IMP6). Through this relationship-building with the current and previous Directors of CIMIC Stone's research has been able to influence military activity at an operational level. Cultural property protection lists provided by Stone were used by NATO forces to protect key sites from air strikes during the 2011 Libya conflict. The current Director of the CIMIC- COE noted that `when Professor Stone submitted lists of cultural property to be protected in Libya and Mali the Centre was confident of their quality and reliability and passed them on to the relevant strategic and operational units in NATO. These lists were then used to ensure cultural property was not damaged by air-strikes' (IMP7). For example, six mobile radar units that had been placed very close to the Roman fort at Ras Almargeb by troops loyal to the Gaddafi regime were carefully targeted and destroyed without damaging the fort because the fort was on the list supplied to NATO (IMP8). The Director also noted that: `A recent NATO report on our work in Libya recommended that NATO develop a cultural property protection doctrine and I hope to continue the Centre's relationship with Professor Stone' (IMP7).

More recently (2013) Stone has also been asked to prepare cultural property protection training sessions and materials for the Lebanese Army, the Nigerian Army and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). The three-day workshop with the Lebanese Army (June 2013) was attended by 30 high level officers from the Lebanese Army, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the international police organisation INTERPOL. Commenting on this workshop, the Head of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Office, Lebanese Army wrote: `IHL in general and the protection of cultural property in particular are becoming increasingly important aspects of modern conflict. Because of this....I created a team within the Lebanese Army to help develop doctrine and practical approaches for the Army to use. The seminar we held last week which was under the auspices of UNESCO was a crucial part of the training of this team and a beginning of this process. It was very helpful that Professor Stone was able to participate to share his knowledge and experience with my staff and to introduce the concept of his 4-Tier Approach that I am sure will be very useful in our future work' (IMP9). Agreement on this need for new training provision on cultural property protection for peacekeeping forces was also indicated by the attending representative from UNIFIL who wrote: `In light of recent conflicts in countries rich in cultural heritage where UN peacekeeping operations are being planned, deployed and conducted, I am discussing...ways to ensure that this aspect is taken into consideration. Most immediately, I am seeking approval for CPP sensitivity seminars for UN troops in southern Lebanon, and will try to expand these to other peacekeeping operations...' (IMP10).

Sources to corroborate the impact

(IMP1) Award citation: for the AIA 2011 James R. Wiseman book award. Available on request.

(IMP2) Newspaper article: Robson, E. (2008) `Book of the week: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq', Times Higher Education, 31 July 2008. Available at: cultural-heritage-in-iraq/403039.article.

(IMP3) Visitor comments on exhibition of Catastrophe, Society of Antiquities, London (15-26 June 2009). Available on request.

(IMP4) House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (2008) Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08. London: TSO.

(IMP5) Letter from Chair, The Iraq Inquiry (19 April 2010).

(IMP6) Statement from Senior Program Manager, CIMIC-COE, on Stone's work on joint CCP education and training (18 August 2013).

(IMP7) Statement from Director and Senior National Representative of The Netherlands, CIMIC- COE on influence of Stone's work on NATO (22 July 2013).

(IMP8) Image of Mobile Radar Units and Roman Fort at Ras Almargeb. Available at:

(IMP9) Statement from Head of International Humanitarian Law Office, Lebanese Army on impact of the UNESCO workshop (27 June 2013).

(IMP10) Statement: from Acting Senior Political Affairs Officer, UNIFIL on influence of the UNESCO workshop in planning training for UN peacekeeping forces.