A few weeks ago, the newest Tomb Raider film was released to audiences worldwide. The film is the latest release in a franchise series that was first launched back in 1996. At that time, there was a great deal of skepticism about the series. Many though that largely male video game audiences would reject a female hero. However, this turned out to be far from the case. Altogether, the Tomb Raider games have sold millions of copies worldwide.
Audiences and gamers love Tomb Raider for many reasons. However, it's had such staying power in the collective conscious. Much of this is due to the fact that the story taps in to our common appreciation for archaeology. Now, women are playing a larger role than ever in archaeological preservation. And given the degree of threat that ancient artifacts are under in some parts of the world, this assistance couldn't come at a better time.
The Tomb Raider Franchise Lives On
Tomb Raider is a very successful action-adventure video game and movie series. What sets it apart, however, is that it stars a female archaeologist as the hero. Albeit, the world of Tomb Raider is highly fantasized. However, it is acclaimed for featuring a strong female protagonist in the hero, Lara Croft. Lara's mission is to travel the world to recover and protect archaeological artifacts.
The newest Tomb Raider film has the same hair-raising adventure as the video game series. According to The Verge, the film focuses on Lara's strength and resourcefulness. Indeed, there are many aspects of Lara Croft's world that audiences find enticing. However, the one important reason why the franchise lives on is our common connection to archaeology. The destruction, vandalism, or theft of ancient artifacts is a crime against history. Once these objects are lost, there is no recovering the cultural and scientific knowledge that was destroyed.
Archaeological Destruction as an Act of War
The Tomb Raider series is a fantasy story involving fictional characters. However, the threat of archaeological resource destruction is very real. In fact, the destruction of archaeological artifacts has been an act of war for centuries. This form of violence was prominently condemned in World War II. As a result, the Allied Forces deployed special resources to prevent further destruction of antiquities. Now, archaeological destruction as an act of war has returned to the headlines.
News outlets have reported on ISIS militants destroying ancient artifacts. This practice is a form of violence that does permanent damage. The value of these cultural artifacts is bestowed by the fact that it has been preserved for centuries. Once they are destroyed, their potential contributions to science and humanity are lost. More and more leaders are starting to recognize this, including at The Hague.
In September 2015, the International Criminal Court brought charges against Islamist militant Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. According to the Wall Street Journal, the war crime he was charged with was destroying historical monuments. This represents the first time The Hague has specifically recognized archaeological violence as a war crime. According to Human Rights Watch, this reflects growing concern for antiquities across the Middle East. Important world heritage sites in conflict zones across the area are at risk. Many areas house antiquities spanning as far back as the 10th century AD.
Archaeology needs the support of the international community now more than ever. This is particularly true in areas impacted by extremist violence. Combatants are intentionally targeting cultural and religious monuments, and this valuable archaeology must be protected. After all, there is no telling the value that can be uncovered by a skilled archaeologist. As they have been in many important fields, women have been prominent in protecting and preserving archeological artifacts.
Pioneering Women in Archaeology Have Helped Preserve History
Women have been critical to preserving the historical value of archaeological artifacts. In fact, several female archaeologists have risen to prominence since the nineteenth century. Among the earliest pioneering women in archaeology was Margaret Murray. Murray was largely responsible for popularizing the study of Egyptology in the U.K. Murray's contemporary, Gertrude Bell, became one of the foremost experts on Arab culture in the Western world in the 20th century. Bell was as much of an explorer as she was an archaeologist. She is often credited as the female counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. Dorothy Garrod was among the most prolific archaeologists of all time. She discovered the first evidence of dog domestication, and she excavated across 23 sites in seven countries.
These are the women who laid the groundwork for female achievement in archaeology. However, many prominent women continue this important work to this day. Women are active across the international community, working hard to prevent cultural violence. Now, women like Shahina Farid carry on the important work of their predecessors. Farid, a young innovator in her field, has already published dozens of articles. By increasing awareness and helping to uncover even more archaeological artifacts, Farid and her colleagues help protect valuable antiquities.
Professional archaeologists do a great deal to protect items and structures of cultural value. However, more can still be done to protect archaeological sites from destruction. Important steps forward include the digital preservation of ancient texts and other materials. Also, the international community should prosecute war criminals who destroy historical sites, like Al Mahdi. And of course, nations around the world must combat the selling of antiquities. Not only does this illicit trade encourage theft of important artifacts, the profits of it go to fund violence.
Altogether, these women preserved hundreds – if not thousands – of important artifacts. These critical pieces of historical and cultural evidence will now be preserved for centuries to come.
Archaeological discoveries are valuable because they teach us more about our common history. As we learn more about our cultural history, our spirits are enriched and our minds are inspired. Lady Jamileh Kharrazi was actually able to tap into ancient Persian culture in order to create her dance productions. She explains how recent archaeological discoveries in Iran have uncovered new evidence about Persian dance. Now, because of these artifacts, we know more about the cultural origins of an awe-inspiring cultural tradition.
Women play a large role in peacekeeping across the globe. Now, their efforts in preventing archaeological destruction are starting to achieve recognition. With the continued support of the international community and benefactors like Lady Jamileh, even more important artifacts can be saved.
Learn about the long life of Jamileh and all her accomplishments