Making Change towards Inclusive Societies: The Soft
Power of Community Archaeology in Building
Cultural Heritage in Mozan, Syria
Yara Moualla and Gayle McPherson *
School of Media, Culture and Society, University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow G72 0LH, UK
Received: 2 June 2019; Accepted: 21 August 2019; Published: 28 August 2019
This paper investigates the soft power of community archaeology in transforming isolated
and diverse communities into a more inclusive society, by reviewing community archaeology as a
concept, and as a process, through the case of inclusive cultural heritage in Mozan, Syria. A theory of
change underpinned key interventions in Mozan to track shifts in the social behaviour of locals from
cultural isolation towards participation, partnership and inclusion, while investigating the process of
establishing understanding, acceptance and mutual trust within communities. The research adopted
an ethnographic study and used qualitative research methods. These relied primarily on direct
observations and open ended, semi-structured and in-depth interviews with local communities, an
archaeological mission and governmental and civic stakeholders involved in the area. The ﬁeldwork
research was informed by conducting a review of literature on the impact of culture and heritage in
social contexts, social inclusion and cultural diplomacy. The paper demonstrates how the contribution
of community archaeology in soft power change has assisted personal and community empowerment
through inclusive cultural heritage on an individual level while strengthening social networks to
mobilise the impact on the community as a whole. It reveals how such a project enhanced dialogue,
increased awareness, and built and contributed to mutual understanding in order to support a shift in
the harder area of symbolic community thinking and attitude, against a backdrop of conﬂict, war and
isolation and builds the basis for inclusive cultural heritage tourism.
community archaeology; inclusion; inclusive growth; soft power; cultural heritage;
cultural tourism; cultural diplomacy; Syria
1. Introduction: The Soft Power of Community Archaeology
Since the contemporary term ‘heritage’ is a reﬂection of what has been constructed by past
societies, based on their needs and ambitions, as well as upon a set of social and cultural values and
norms, the concept of heritage can then be considered a symbolic product of a social construction that
has the ability to make change in societies. This can be achieved by not only reﬂecting who they are,
but also reﬂecting who they would like to become. Heritage, in that sense, can be seen as a dynamic
since change and time play important roles in its representation within our current days.
Archaeology is considered one of the key components that feeds into the process of heritage
making with continuous tangible material and intangible concepts, norms and values, therefore,
archaeology used as a project has high signiﬁcance for modern identities and cannot be seen in isolation
of the context in which it is taking place. Archaeology has a power in society that can be seen in light
of Nye’s [
] concept of soft power as the ability to inﬂuence the behaviour of others to get a desired
outcome without military pressure. In other ways it is in the intangible attributes [
] of archaeology,
the cooperation and attractions that archaeologists can transform the archaeological resources into
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670; doi:10.3390/su11174670 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 2 of 16
desirable outcomes such as inclusion within communities to help create sustainable cultural heritage.
This paper will outline a speciﬁc case study that we examined over a number of years, both as a
participant in the archaeological mission and as part of a wider study for the British Council. The unique
access we were given allowed for an understanding of community engagement and development
that would otherwise not have been possible. The paper introduces the key theories and concepts
that underpinned our approach to the research, based on inclusion, diplomacy, power and inclusive
cultural heritage and details of the case study approach. We then describe our research approach and
methods and then present the results and discussion together to demonstrate the uniﬁed discussion
of the key issues that emerged. Given the case study approach it was better to bring the results and
discussion together into one section but with clear sub-sections to guide the reader. We ﬁnish with
lessons learned for others and conclusions.
1.1. The Rise of Community Archaeology
In his article titled “What is community archaeology” Marshal considers that community
archaeology is far from new, since people have always engaged with the pasts’ related objects
and places in the process of establishing meaning in the present [
]. Shackel suggested that one cause
for the development of new community archaeology programmes is that an increasing number of
archaeologists are accepting the fact that archaeology is more than the implementation of scientiﬁc
methods to collect and interpret data and are more committed to the idea that communities have a
sense of their own past and they want to be part of decision-making processes regarding their own
heritage development .
Basically, the concept of community archaeology has gradually developed from being a
preferable activity by certain archaeologists to becoming a soft power approach to wider policy
implementation, political relationships and heritage protection while performing archaeological
]. This transformation has been driven by diﬀerent reasons concerning the preservation
of the archaeological sites and the civic engagement and the development agendas in the area of
excavation. Project directors whose political and community understanding were key to sustaining
developments and empowering citizens were brought in to more multi-lateral projects to demonstrate
the cultural value of archaeology in their communities. Grima [
] suggests three diﬀerent ways to think
about community archaeology. The ivory tower is the ﬁrst way to look at it as archaeologists perceive
themselves as the insiders and specialists with a privilege of knowledge that has served to widen the
division between specialists’ knowledge and experience and that of public knowledge. Another way
of thinking about the relationship between the archaeologist, archaeological evidence and practice,
and the public, is one which gives the archaeologist the role of mediator between the public on the one
hand, and the archaeological resource on the other, or what is sometimes referred to as the gateway or
the deﬁcit model, as discussed by Merriman [
]. The third way is the ‘multiple perspective model ‘,
which recognizes the variety of perspectives, attitudes, and needs of diﬀerent audiences, which will
result in very diﬀerent forms of engagement with the past [
]. This model also allows for the promotion
of inclusive cultural heritage, a new concept for some in archaeological circles.
An understanding of archaeological resources, not only reduced site-looting, vandalism and
encouraged preservation, but also created greater support for the curation of archaeological collection
and records [
]. The work towards community archaeology drove archaeologists to work in a
participatory approach, placing a high priority on educational and developmental activities with
local communities in order to share the means of production of historical knowledge and promote
the conservation of heritage [
]. Multivocality is considered a key component of archaeological
practices and a core aspect of methods used in applying community archaeology. Hodder argues that
multivocality is beyond allowing the participants more voices, more groups and more individuals as it
involves changing practices and contexts so that disadvantaged groups have the opportunity to be
heard and responded to [
]. Theories in cultural diplomacy also emphasise the aspect of allowing
individual and communities’ voice to be heard, to share with others and create mutual understanding
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and tolerance. Archaeology, through collective digs, allows groups to come together in a manner
they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to do, to share a project, to manage, create and
protect important parts of joint heritage. The British Council report on Cultural Heritage for Inclusive
Growth suggests that when communities are inclusive and bring people together in creating and
protecting their own cultural heritage it also allows them to promote their cultural heritage, in cultural
tourism terms, thus contributing to their own social and economic development [
]. This allows, in
some cases, collaboration, cooperation and the sharing of collective memory and rebuilding within
communities for sustainable growth [
]. After all, in order to move beyond an understanding of
the theoretical backdrop to archaeology work, archaeologists ﬁrst need to situate their work socially,
politically and economically [
]. The aspects identiﬁed are key components of cultural heritage and
diplomacy and used in conﬂict prevention and resolution [
] and can be used to aid peace. As argued
by Winter deﬁnitions of heritage tend to be framed as an inheritance, a source of identity, as an
assemblage of values, discourses and materialities, or more broadly as a mediator between the past and
present, human and non-human [
]. That said, there is also counter-evidence as Le Baron observes
that: ‘Culture is an essential part of conﬂict and conﬂict resolution. Cultures are like underground
rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions,
attributions, judgements and ideas of self and the other’ [
]. Thus, the very thing we are trying to
use to demonstrate can be used as a tool of, and in, soft power change, is contested and challenged.
The reason that culture is so precious is it assists in the role of aiding mutual understanding, tolerance
and increasing resilience amongst community groups but also presents the opportunity for inclusion,
personal and economic growth and sustainability in cultural tourism terms .
The production of knowledge is historically positioned, and McDavid [
] argues that it is
important to take into consideration the social and political constrains in any particular community,
when deciding whether or not a public or cultural intervention and interpretation is possible within
that community. McDavid also argues that critical theory calls for self-reﬂection by the social analyst
and any social actor should be seen as a part of the social process analysis [
] thus understanding that
the representation of culture is one that is created for a given process or product.
She considers the act of interpreting publically that material culture is political because it reﬂects
the way in which people continue to negotiate social and political power and because it incorporates
ways that people are aﬀected by the public presentations of what she calls sensitive archaeological
and historic materials [
]. McDavid used Cornel West’s term “critical organic catalyst” to refer to
community archaeology as a work of public intellectuals where the mandate is to relate disciplinary
skills and agendas to a “collective praxis” by engaging activity in large social and political present [
Brooks stresses the importance of public involvement as without public involvement there cannot
be eﬀective public support of archaeology and without public support there cannot be legislative
funding of adequate programs to recover and protect a state’s or the nation’s archaeological heritage
for those communities and tourists alike [
]. In order to understand the concept of community
archaeology, it is vital to discuss the term community and its related dimensions in this regard. Since
communities are seldom mono-cultural and are never of one mind, as they are combinations of people
who have come together for many diﬀerent planned and contingent reasons, Marshall argues that
the interest of community may change over the course of time and during any archaeological project
in their area [
]. Smith and Waterton also revisited the notion of ‘community’ within the ﬁeld of
heritage, and discussed the multi-dimensions and layers of communities that might lead to tensions
between diﬀerent groups and as their aspirations arise and are mediated, especially when deﬁning and
negotiating what brings them together in terms of memory, place, identity and cultural expression [
It is necessary for archaeologists to understand how local people view themselves and their histories
in order for archaeologists to deﬁne how young people should be taught history and how they deal
with sensitive issues in their past [
]. Trigger [
] remains committed to the notion that it is the
archaeologist’s responsibility to seek an objective understanding of archaeological data by revealing
biases in archaeological interpretation and by the systematic testing of interpretations against a broader
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 4 of 16
data base, notwithstanding our diﬀerences in nomenclature [
]. As for multivocality, Trigger believes
that the more questions that are asked and the more narratives of the past that are formulated the
better. He equivocally opposes the idea that any speciﬁc group should be accorded an exclusive right
to control the interpretation of their own past. He also rejects the suggestion that all narratives are
of equal historical value. Multivocality in Triggers view enhances rather than relieves the need for
archaeologists to weed out erroneous assumptions and interpretations and to synthesise divergent
viewpoints to produce more holistic explanations of the past; in turn allowing the possibility of
inclusive heritage development. The claims of the past are sometimes contentious as diﬀerent groups
agenda will often clash over claiming a role in the oﬃcial public memory, causing the established
collective memories to be continuously in ﬂux .
To put the community context within the archaeology social practices, it is important to look
at community archaeology’s most distinguished characteristic as viewed by Marshall as it is the act
of shifting at least partial control of an archaeology project to the local community or communities
]. Clarke’s [
] view on community archaeology is consistent with the other mentioned scholars
as she argues that community archaeology aims are to encompass approaches that include community
members in decision-making about research topics, research sites, analysis of data, curation and
management of collections and the production of materials that are culturally appropriate and useful
for heritage management and tourism development [
]. Clarke considers several components as
integral to a community-based approach, and the way they manifest on the ground may diﬀer from
community to community and from project to project. She argues that the character of a community
project will circle around a diverse unpredictable and even indeﬁnable range of factors. These factors
can be personal aspects such as the motivations and commitments of individuals and social grouping
within the community, therefore, the form and the direction of a community-based archaeology may
be structured by the stimulus and rationale for the work. The nature of the project whether it is
a community or a researcher driven project, the local history and experiences of interactions with
non-local society, the structure of community and its representative organisation all play an important
role in determining how a project will be shaped [
]. It is important to highlight Clarke’s view that
even though the character of community archaeology will vary according to project, place and people,
there are some common elements that can be identiﬁed. These elements include the use of eﬀective
and culturally appropriate media to communicate the project, the idea that negotiation of project
boundaries is an ongoing process and the recognition that archaeology is generally carried out in other
people’s social place.
Community archaeology can be an eﬀective tool if community archaeology projects are conducted
with conscious attention to the context of the diverse communities hosting it, putting into consideration
the diﬀerent factors that might aﬀect its process, mechanisms, results and impact on communities
to ensure it is really inclusive cultural heritage [
]. How an individual or local community creates
meaning of the past can reshape perceptions of national collective meaning ties in with government
cultural policies and international protection and promotion of heritage. This reiterates Smith’s [
view on cultural heritage as a performative process of meaning making, linked to the negotiation
of various forms of cultural and political identity [
]. Cultural heritage in Smith’s view is seen
to derive social change, with the ability to help negotiate the social and political narratives as she
wrote: “values that reﬂect the needs of the present; in this process social and political value, and the
narratives they justify, are created and recreated, and heritage is linked to processes of remembering
and commemoration, and emotion is crucial to that process” [
]. Various individuals and groups can
transcend barriers to be part of a collective memory, with a common past, present and future [
that is what interests others to visit and help contribute to the inclusive growth of cultural heritage.
As archaeology is considered a process to produce heritage and heritage is considered necessary
to sustain local identities and a sense of a place, especially by those communities and locals that are
threatened by transformations in the global economy, [
] in addition to other threating factors like
armed conﬂicts, the use of archaeology in soft power change is increasing in Syria. There is evidence
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in other post-conﬂict regions, such as Columbia, of cultural interventions being used to re-build
communities leading to peace, tolerance and mutual understanding [
] and cultural tourism and
sustainability of small heritage businesses [
]. As for the impact of globalisation, there is a strong
sense among some archaeologists and cultural diplomats that by including communities in the decision
making process, through the meaning of either participatory or collaborative approach, they are helping
to create a sense of heritage for that particular group, therefore, archaeologists can embrace the various
and diverse histories found in any one place or community aiding the peace building process [
Therefore, heritage can be seen as a performance to underpin identity, particularly national identity.
The aﬀective/emotional responses of individuals are central to this process, and animate responses to
and uses of the cultural items, places or events that they deem to be ‘heritage’ as a range of aﬀective
practices are embodied in the processes of heritage making [24,26].
In the end, archaeological excavations have the power to transform a speciﬁc locally isolated
geographical spot into a cultural heritage location with a lot of attention from diﬀerent organisations.
This process can transform the society’s behaviour positively or negatively based on the social
cultural policies applied, therefore, community archaeology can lead this process and help the positive
transformation of the place .
1.2. The Case of Mozan, Syria
The case of Mozan can be explained here in terms of how community archaeology triangulates
archaeological processes and cultural policies in a place with the archaeological ﬁndings from the site
and the local communities living in the area of the archaeological excavations. The success of this
triangulation in Mozan supported the social fabric incubating the archaeological site, which led to the
protection of the archaeological site during the diﬃcult circumstances of unrest and conﬂict in Syria
and can hopefully post-conﬂict, lead to a cultural heritage attraction.
This case aims to investigate the change in social behaviour amongst locals and between locals
and the foreign archaeological mission and other national partners and stakeholders involved in the
region to reach an inclusive society. It is important to understand that there was no single activity or a
clear recipe that led the change towards inclusive society in Mozan, rather it was about the interactive
bottom up approach adopted by the archaeological mission there and the network of partners and
stakeholders as well as the methods, tools and mechanisms applied in the region.
What has begun as a traditional scientiﬁc excavation mission more than 30 years ago has been
transformed into an inclusive cultural heritage approach. This change happened through three phases:
The ﬁrst phase started with the beginning of the archaeological work in the area, that soon adopted
an inclusive cultural heritage approach that combined everyone in the area whether during the
ﬁelds daily work or through the analysis of the site ﬁndings. Further discussion took place
regarding how the activities changed the community in Mozan is further discussed throughout
this paper, however, it is worth mentioning and this happened through systematic scientiﬁc
training; to shape a ﬁeld expert from the local community rather than a random worker that can
be replaced easily and through a great deal of awareness campaigns and school visits to the site.
Furthermore, providing the right conditions to include everyone in the area in the scientiﬁc work
on ﬁeld and during analysis and studies of the ﬁndings is important.
The second phase happened during 2011 and 2012. This phase was led by the management unit of
cultural heritage transformation project, the cultural department of Syria Trust for Development
back then. During this phase many stakeholders and partners came together to deliver a cultural
base community development program in the area.
The aim of this program has been articulated by one of the program executives as “Our goal
was to put strategic outlines for cultural based community development that empower people to
reshape their own cultural and inherited identity, people to become more actively responsible towards
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 6 of 16
their cultural heritage, enhance their abilities to be able to protect their reach heritage and insure its
sustainability as an important economic resource”.
The main networking and funding activities were:
Building a ﬂexible network from the governmental, civil and private sectors such as Toumohi
institution, Syrian Youth Council “Nakoun”, Moubadroun group supported by the British Council
and the Syrian Enterprise and Business Centre “CEBC”, as well as the Directorate General of
Antiquities and Museums and the archaeological mission.
•Providing two scholarships dedicated for two young women to study at the university.
Establishing the Gate of Urkesh that included Urkesh women workshop for handicrafts, Kids club
and kindergarten and the centre for capacity building.
All the work conducted in this phase was part of a pilot project to test and revise the community
development strategy within the cultural vision and policy of the Syria Trust for development. For the
archaeological mission this phase was important to build knowledge and experience as well as
networks to reach the Eco-Archaeological Park to insure sustainability for both site conservation as
well as tourism as a complete experience. The third phase represents the follow up by members of
the archaeological mission during the conﬂict from 2013 until now. During this phase ﬁnancial and
technical support has been provided to locals in order to keep preserving the site whether from a long
distance by the head of the archaeological mission or through the local team to make sure that the
projects of the second phase are still running to support the locals there, create new initiatives like
touring exhibitions in the region, as well as keep the awareness campaigns running to conserve the
site and the vision for the Eco-Archaeological Park in the future. The international team abroad is
organizing international exhibitions of the site and the inclusive work that led to preserve it during
conﬂict. The ﬁeldwork in Mozan contains many relevant factors that can lead to conﬂict or inclusion
based on applied policies and interventions, as the region contains 21 Kurd villages and one Arab
village in Northeast Syria very close to the Turkish boarders. Social conﬂicts could have occurred
not only due to the diﬀerent ethnicities inhabiting the area of study, but also to other dimensions like
diﬀerent social classes, gender issues, as well as dealing with a foreign archaeological mission over a
long period of time.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Approach
This case study approach tracks the shift in the social behaviour of the locals from isolation and
indiﬀerence towards participation, partnership and inclusion and investigates the development of
building understanding, acceptance and mutual trust within the communities there as objectives
towards the long-term aim of integration through diﬀerent interventions. This, in turn, led to
sustainability of key communities and oﬀers the potential for inclusive growth in cultural heritage and
cultural tourism, post conﬂict. The aim was to achieve soft power outcomes and positive values in the
region, by mobilising cultural diplomacy policies to facilitate people-to-people communication and
mutual understanding. We examined the bottom up approach adopted in these initiatives and local
participation in shaping the approach from the planning phase, with a careful attention to the unique
context of this case study. The region reﬂects the Syrian cultural diversity, yet it is very remote from the
Syrian capital, Damascus. In addition to the constructive relationship between the local communities
and the archaeological mission Director, the national authorities oversaw a long distance management
plan that helped the local people maintain the site.
The study sought to examine the impact of the tangible and intangible outputs as a result of
the various interventions in the area of Mozan, and produce soft power outcomes that feed into the
long-lasting goals of community archaeology, cultural heritage development and cultural tourism [
A theory of change utilising cultural diplomacy and speciﬁc interventions was used to guide this
process and follow a logical model for analysis of the results.
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2.2. Research Methods
The methods used to investigate the proposition were qualitative research methods using
open-ended, semi structured and in-depth interviews. In addition, participant observation was used
when working with the NGO and the group of individuals working on the actual evacuation dig.
This approach to gathering data was possible due to the unique relationship that had been built up with
the NGO and allowed for a less structured approach giving the interviewee more freedom to direct the
ﬂow of conversation especially as they were familiar with the interviewer [
]. The interviews included
ﬁve male and three female locals from the Kurd and Arab communities living there, 15 personnel
from the national stakeholders involved in the area such as the municipality, the mayor of the region,
Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), as well as the archaeological mission
still working on a long-distance basis and the parties involved with the cultural-based community
development project (a set of experts, Syria Trust for Development, Tomohi, Nakoun, DGAM, and other
related bodies). McGill highlighted the importance of including a range of institutions and individuals
in heritage work (e.g., community residents, universities, students, regional heritage professionals,
NGOs, cultural organizations, governmental institutions) and demonstrated that close observation
of heritage projects helps to develop understandings not only of the communities interacting with
heritage places, but also helps archaeologists to understand the impacts and implications of the projects
in which they engage for future cultural tourism use .
McPherson et al. suggests that the framework for comprehending a project and tracking evidence
of change might be required at an individual project level, and when using a logic model a project
can be mapped out completely [
]. It may have outcomes which are soft power-related, for example,
an outcome can be improving relationships and by following a logic model, we can ask, which of
the aims, objectives and outcomes relate to, or constitute, soft power outcomes related to inclusion.
Given what we understand from the detail of the logic model, McPherson asks what broader lessons
about these types of interactions, engagements and activities can be translated into the theory of change.
Using this model in the case of Mozan we argue that it might prove a valuable process of reﬂection.
The secondary method in gaining knowledge and insights to support this case study was through
reviewing relevant literature and related policy documents.
Data from the interviews, and from the policy documents and reports reviewed were examined
around meta-themes of soft power, understanding, resilience, conﬁdence, mutual trust, empowerment,
cultural heritage, sustainability, tourism, engagement and cultural diplomacy for analysis. These were
then used along with key statements from the interviewees and from the participant observations
undertaken to inform the success, or otherwise, of the community archaeology project in the case of
Mozan, and whether this contributed to a soft power change and a more inclusive environment for
growth in cultural heritage for the communities living in a conﬂict zone.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Comprehending Community Archaeology in Mozan: From Mutual Beneﬁt to Mutual Respect:
International Knowledge Meets Local Experts
Buccellati, as the head of the archaeological mission excavating in the area of Mozan, worked for
more than 30 years to understand how local people in the area view themselves, their histories and
how they dealt with sensitive issues in their past. As he explained while being interviewed:
“What derived (sic) me to work very close to local community and engage them with the
analysis and the results of our archaeological site was not only connected to my basic belief
in human common values, but also my strong belief that we share a symmetrical relationship
with the local communities. Local people have an instinctive relationship to the territory and
the land, which we archaeologist don’t have. But most of the locals don’t have interest in
the past while we have a great interest. In another words, we know more about the ancient
Urkesh, but they know more about Mozan. (The) local community can tell us a lot about the
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 8 of 16
territory and by working with them we can learn a lot about how ancient Mozaniens used to
manage the land.”
The diversity of the community/communities and the conflict of interests that might arise at any
moment is well comprehended when looking at Buccellati’s archaeological work in Mozan/Urkesh.
The social context of the Mozan archaeological site reflects Marshall’s views on communities, its nature
and diversity [
] at the core of Buccellati’s consistent work, not only to comprehend, reach for, and
work with these communities but also to be part of these communities, called by a local name “Abu
Iskender” as a symbol of familiarity and friendship and being an anchor of trust by the communities
there. As Buccellati revealed “The ultimate factor of success in building a relationship with community
is to start with a position of trust. We showed our respect to their traditions and were sensible to their
society specifics and as a result we become a family as we always felt that they are our extended family”.
Buccellati has also looked at the local communities beyond those who lived on or close to the site
as he managed to comprehend the nature of the overall area and build relations and network with
interested groups and bodies that share the same concerns and interests on a regional and national level.
Buccellati was completely aware of the overlapping nature and the conﬂict that may arise between
the diﬀerent communities there in addition to the interested bodies on a regional and national levels,
especially because the Urkesh or Mozan archaeological sites represent an Indo European civilisation
amongst a Semitic area. He managed to turn the site into a place of convergence of interest, facilitating
dialogue while discussing the history, meaning and signiﬁcance of the place instead of being a site of
conﬂict and clash of identities. Being able to be part of the mission and acting as a participant observer
in the research process allowed us unique access to work with the diﬀerent community groups.
3.2. Empowering Communities: A Heritage Site for Everyone
The community archaeology approach adopted in Mozan/Urkesh enabled Buccellati and his team,
as well as the network that worked in the region later, to build the cultural heritage-based community
development project, to ask questions about the past, to see archaeological remains in a new light and
to think in a new way about how the past informs the future. It gave hope for the archaeological site to
remain conserved and protected by its local communities as he successfully transferred the ownership
of their own past. This presents an example of the role of archaeology as soft power cultural diplomacy;
inﬂuencing those in power by engaging with those at the grassroots and empowering them to ﬁght for
their culture and heritage and have their voice heard, a voice that can tell the story post-conﬂict to
cultural tourists and help the area grow economically and socially again.
Buccellati’s direct engagement with the local communities and his strong belief and desire to
transfer ownership of the place to them was reﬂected by the ﬁeld practices, data collection and analysis
as he depended mainly on locals in the ﬁeld, and provided them with the necessary training and
knowledge to become local experts rather than a regular workers that can be replaced by any one.
These soft power outcomes of training, education, ownership, conﬁdence and mutual trust are all
key deliverables in the theory of change Bucellati considered important and one of the authors was
able to observe. Bucellati was a key informant for this research and revealed that he also dedicated
many events and evenings to explain the site’s new ﬁndings to the locals, guided many school
visits and provided the site’s diﬀerent parts with educational information and signs, making the
archaeological site accessible for all locals and demonstrating the role of a cultural archaeological project
in the sustainable development of heritage and as a key vehicle for cultural diplomacy. Sharing and
celebrating new archaeological ﬁnds and data helped Buccellati to become part of their group and
not simply circulating data with them. In other words, they were subjects participating in his project
rather than objects of his project. One author was also able to be part of this group at diﬀerent times
and, as a native speaker, this helped enormously with language barriers, networks and inclusion.
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3.2.1. Common Ground for Further Development
Buccellati’s commitment from the very beginning to comprehend and engage with the local
communities, as well as his strong partnership with the Directorate General of Antiquates and
Museums, in addition to the positive relations with local and regional authorities, made him fully
aware of the local needs in the area while foreseeing the development’s potential that his project
could make to the area locally, regionally and nationally. This close relationship and positive dynamic
with the locals enabled Buccellati to understand the local needs and interests leading him to extend
the archaeological vision to create an eco-archaeological park in the region aiming to safeguard the
integrity of the place and participate in the sociocultural development of the region based on the local
special characteristics, needs and skills. This managed to get a positive response from the regional
and national authorities, due to Buccellati’s strong partnerships that he created over decades based on
dialogue, mutual understanding and trust. Therefore, Buccellati’s proposal was in harmony with the
national cultural vision and policies to develop the area but from a bottom up approach, based on the
actual local needs and potentials.
3.2.2. Public, Private and Civil Partnership to Inspire Community Participation
The Gate of Urkesh managed to create a hub for interested bodies from the governmental,
civic society organisations and the private sector to intervene and work in the area in a sustainable,
if not a resilient, way leaving locals with soft power skills, better understanding of active citizenship
and a strong voluntary foundation that enabled them to protect their site at the time of diﬃculties
and conﬂicts. Evidence of the partnership and network approach here resulted in a more a connected
community as explained by the operations manager of one of the involved NGOs:
“We came to the area with the aim to connect with diverse communities there, engage with
the youth. We were looking to facilitate the establishment of a platform where people can
discuss their problems, reﬂect critically, realize their social and cultural resources and to come
with their own initiatives. Then we intervene again to empower them by suggesting a vast
and diverse network of professionals, experts and funders to insure a positive realization of
local projects in the area.”
Buccellati’s archaeological work in Mozan/Urkesh is also in line with Shackel’s view of community
participation, which means that archaeologists are no longer the cultural broker they once were.
Practitioners are beginning to recognise that many histories can exist in any one place, and these
stories of the past are continually being shaped and reconstructed. Archaeologists should address
these changing perspectives and they need to respond eﬀectively to the challenges and opportunities
to ensure the authentic narrative is sustainable for generations to come .
3.3. The Dynamics towards Inclusion
In order to understand the dynamics towards social inclusion and its connection to community
archaeology, it is vital to spot the nature, causes and consequences of social exclusion, while tracking
the relevance of community archaeology in building an inclusive society, by investigating the potential
of cultural heritage projects in building the social and cultural participation of diverse societies
beyond the economic dimension and discuss its power in enhancing opportunities, access to resources,
while empowering everyone’s voice and respect for rights. An understanding of the concept of social
inclusion and how this concept has been derived from the concept of social exclusion is important at
this point as it oﬀers an original perspectives on the social world because it has the potential to provide
new insights into the nature, causes and consequences of poverty, deprivation and discrimination [
A simple deﬁnition of social exclusion is suggested as: the process whereby certain individuals,
groups or communities are pushed to the edge of society and cannot participate fully because of
poverty, inadequate education or underdeveloped life skills and was useful to our work here .
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 10 of 16
A number of scholars as well as institutions, Mathieson et al. [
] described the diﬀerent ways
that deﬁne social exclusion to reﬂect its diﬀerent institutional, political, historical and geographical
context. The concept of ‘social exclusion’ is then contested, and has multiple and multi-layered
meanings. These meanings are being continually redeﬁned over time and have diﬀerent policy
implications. Thus, the term ‘social exclusion’ has been used to describe: groups at risk of exclusion;
what people are excluded from; the states associated with exclusion; the processes involved and levels
at which they operate; and the actors involved. There is some consensus that ‘social exclusion’ is: (a)
multidimensional, encompassing social, political, cultural and economic dimensions, and operating
at diﬀerent social levels; (b) dynamic, impacting in diﬀerent ways to diﬀering degrees at diﬀerent
social levels over time; and (c) relational [
]. As a result people may be excluded from some, but not
necessarily all, aspects of daily living. People can be excluded from production by not being able to
access employment or education, or from consumption when they cannot aﬀord goods or services.
People can also be excluded from social networks when they lack access to social, sporting or cultural
organisations and even excluded from decision making when they lack power to change personal or
wider circumstances .
Social Exclusion in Mozan
The context of Mozan tracks a lot of what can be considered the results of social exclusion,
as people in the area with the exception, of the seasonal work they have at the archaeological site,
have no other means of employment. This was reﬂected while interviewing a project director of one of
the involved NGOs in the area. He said:
“Recalling our initial work with young men in the area, the biggest challenge was to discuss
with them the possibility of a locally based future for them. They all agreed that the area doesn’t
have any future horizon, especially for those who had university degree. Therefore, we set the
goal of creating an attractive atmosphere for youth to stay and realize their future plans.”
Access to public and private services are limited, although schools are available, the closest medical
centre is 15 km away and basic grocery and bakery services are also located in Amouda. Transportation
is limited, although villages in the area are very close to each other but people there present a closed
image. They are not willing to build real social networks and visits amongst families are limited to
oﬃcial occasions, such as funerals and weddings. There are no neighbourhood centres or parks for
families to meet casually, people in the area do not know how the system works and, as a result, there
is a low level of trust when it comes to local authorities in the area. Exclusion then can be on diﬀerent
social, cultural, economic and political dimensions. The aspects of social dimension are reﬂected
by isolation, few social connections, poor coping skills, lower level of conﬁdence and fear of crime.
The cultural dimension meaning for people is the diﬃculty of understanding themselves and reﬂected
by being seen as diﬀerent, outside the loop, grinning and bearing it and keeping their heads down.
The economic dimension is understood and felt by many as people being unable to aﬀord a decent
standard of living and this is reﬂected in many experiencing poverty and deprivation, poor housing
and receiving low wages/beneﬁts. The political dimension is understood here as people not having
representation and this is reﬂected in not knowing how the system works and, as such, they are not
involved in networks, are disengaged, dissenting and not voting [
]. These diﬀerent dimensions have
been investigated in Mozan and helped shaped the indirect questions of the open-ended in-depth
interviews. The aim was to investigate, on the one hand, the level of participation and partnership
in the area of Mozan as preconditions of an inclusive diverse society and, on the other hand, discuss
the social inclusion indicators of understanding, acceptance and respect on diﬀerent dimensions and
scales. As one member of the archaeological mission stated: “it is not enough to expect a bottom up
approach from the locals and expect inclusion, this needs to be supported by government policy to
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 11 of 16
Only by understanding what leads to social exclusion, its multidimensional nature and its various
scales, it is then possible to comprehend what can be considered an inclusive society or propose practices
and processes to achieve such a state in society. Social inclusion can then be deﬁned as a series of
positive actions to achieve equality of access to goods and services, to assist individual participation in
their community and society, to encourage the contribution of all persons to social and cultural life and
to be aware of, and to challenge all forms of discrimination [
]. Accordingly, social inclusion processes
involve more than improving access to economic resources and this is clear, too, when deﬁning social
inclusion as a process to improve the terms of participation in society, particularly for people who are
disadvantaged, through enhancing opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights [
3.4. The Relevance of Community Archaeology to Inclusion Practices
It is the multi-dimensional nature of social exclusion that has contributed to the interest it has
received within a diverse range of professional spheres. Now, within a framework of social exclusion,
responsibility is more widely shared—a broader range of institutions are considered as having a role to
play as part of a multiagency approach to tackling the symptoms and causes of exclusion [
]. This is
why community archaeology is considered an important medium in soft power change especially
since archaeological excavations often happen in remote and less developed areas where people are
more fragile and exposed to social exclusion and isolation.
Within the social dimension, one might consider the importance of self-worth, dignity and the
importance of community identity, which, if damaged, can lead to social disintegration. The opportunity
for social participation and its eﬀects on the social fabric of the community is important, as it involves
relational ties between individuals and society and individuals and the state. This was well reﬂected
by what a local woman said in the interview:
“I can’t describe my feelings when they organized an exhibition in Aleppo for our handicraft
creations, I couldn’t believe that many people came to see our work and actually many
travelled from our area to Aleppo to support us. This was something I will never forget.”
The notion of cultural tourism was new to the people we engaged with and the concept of cultural
heritage as business and industry is only just beginning.
Other issues to be considered within the social dimension include the opportunity to participate
in decision-making and the marginalisation of disadvantaged groups [
archaeology to help form collective identities for communities who are not direct descendants of
those who created them, questioning the role of archaeology in public participation and challenging
the fact that sharing archaeological knowledge with the public needs to go further than information
giving, but information sharing, for an archaeologist and heritage expert to really engage in community
]. This symbolic power of archaeology as a means of communication and social
inclusion is particularly important for the case of Mozan, since the archaeological site belongs to the 3rd
millennia B.C. and the area is a mix of Kurds and Arabs with no direct link but the excavation to the site.
The second phase of the inclusive work in Mozan has a focus on the concept of community participation
by shaping the volunteering infrastructure for youth in the area and making it one of the selection
criteria for the scholarship program. Indeed this concept was at the heart of the second phase in 2011
and 2012 that started with the active citizenship workshop to engage with the local communities.
3.4.1. Strengthening the Sense of Belonging and Empowering Local Groups
Engaging with community archaeology and heritage projects not only reinforces the need for
communities to come together, it enhances the relationships. Partnerships and networks are developed
during the diﬀerent stages of the project in order to enable and encourage people to become active
agents in their communities, resisting terrorists groups, developing resilience and building shared
understanding. This was well explained by another local woman in the area:
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 12 of 16
“Participating in this project made us realize how simple it is to get to know each other, to
become friends, to trust each other and to work together. Actually, it was not as complicated
as we always thought. Simply we were eager to know each other better, enthusiastic to
succeed and brave to try.”
Since community archaeology, whether with its participatory or cooperative approaches, can
play an important role in building the inclusive cultural heritage, it has the potential to bring people
together, as explained by a beneﬁciary woman from the Gate of Urkesh project:
“This project was a breakthrough for the women in the area (Kurds and Arab) as it provided a
comfort place for more than 30 women to get closer, chat and work
. . .
discover the uniqueness
of each woman in the area, and it also provided us with economic independence, self-realization
and respect. Men used to meet at the archaeological site, work together and talk.”
When communities are engaged with cultural activity, or, in this case, a heritage formation
process through an archaeological project, this can help to increase communication and social skills.
For example, widening social networks, while supporting individual conﬁdence in addition to
integrating immigrant groups with its hosting societies. In turn, the new products and tourists ﬂowing
to the area to see and consume their work achieves one of the objectives of the projects and demonstrates
soft power change in action.
Art and cultural engagement can play a positive role in raising people’s aspirations and making
them aware of the opportunities that are available to them both within and outside their communities
and this aligns well with developing soft power skills through the use of art and culture [
The case of Mozan helped to open the horizon of the youth in the area through diﬀerent workshops
to help communities to comprehend the opportunities available to them, while empowering the
students to proceed to university through scholarship programmes for the girls in the area of Mozan,
as well as training and discovery visits to Damascus to create networks and gain knowledge [
Skills development and training opportunities are key areas that those in government, NGOs and
cultural institutes, such as the British Council, want to see up-scaled to help others in key conﬂict zones.
The UK is currently working with 12 countries (interview with BC staﬀ) in conﬂict or post-conﬂict
situations and understanding how to use culture as a contribution to the development of soft power
skills to help resilience, conﬁdence, empowerment and social inclusion is a key outcome.
3.4.2. Supporting Communities to Reach Out from Within
The result of these links above is reﬂected in the “Gate of Urkesh” a cultural-based community
development project. The project, led by civil society organisations, managed to engage local
communities there, together with the archaeological mission, and other related civil and governmental
parties. It is clear that cultural participation can lead to the development and enhancement of many
skills and competences. Such engagement in cultural activities has been found to result in: the gaining
of new skills improved informal and formal learning, increased self-conﬁdence, self-esteem and feeling
of self-worth, the improvement or creation of social networks, an enhanced quality of life, the promotion
of social cohesion, personal and community empowerment, and improvement of personal and local
image, identity and wellbeing. McPherson et al. [
] revealed that longitudinal projects were more
likely to demonstrate a soft power change in, and from, Governments, internationally to how they view
and deal with that country. The results revealed that, locally, the project empowered young people to
have more conﬁdence, build resilience, and have mutual understanding of others. Practically, we also
found that art and culture policies that lead to community engagement, storytelling and exchange
of cultural heritage can have lasting eﬀects that can aid in conﬂict prevention and help grow the
development of cultural heritage, especially as opportunities for women.
People in Mozan had the chance to know each other better through the process adopted by the
archaeological project and other related initiatives and parties. They listened to each other, discussed
their stories, visions, problems and hopes. This helped them stand on a common ground. We also
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 13 of 16
found that those that utilised the long lasting traditions of arts and cultural production were able to help
validate people’s stories (the intangible cultural heritage) and perspectives by bringing people together
to discover shared goals and strength. This process can broaden citizen voices and participation,
oﬀering a welcoming entry point to those who have not felt power in the civic realm before. This can
enhance the quality and capacity for dialogue. The arts, in the wider sense, can promote greater
awareness and understanding of issues, contributing to shifts in thinking and attitude [35,36].
3.4.3. Inspiring Social Action
Another factor that can be at the core of shaping identity and a sense of belonging is the nature of
the archaeological work as a process to produce heritage; therefore, people engaged in these practices
are a focus of local cultures and traditions and often become more engaged in their communities
which helps the inclusion practices through social connectedness, participation and partnership, which,
in turn, empower the indicators of social inclusion like understanding, acceptance and mutual trust.
az-Andreu also believes that archaeological heritage can become a vehicle with which to talk about
aspects of social cohesion, in solving social tension and positively reinforcing identity [
]. A Syrian
member of the archaeological mission has articulated this:
“Our work as archaeologists should not be limited in excavating past artefacts with static
and nostalgic values, but should include a serious search for values that support our present
and impact our collective conscious as modern Syrians. Urkesh in this perspective played an
important role in the forth and third millennia B.C. and continues to be important in our
The case of Mozan discusses how community archaeology, as an example of culture as soft
power change, helped to achieve that and, to an extent, it helped reduce barriers and prevented
conﬂict, especially in a diverse area like Mozan, whilst growing opportunities for inclusive growth
in cultural heritage. The case study in Mozan has shown, as an example, that people can, and are,
making signiﬁcant civic contributions as catalysts, conveners, forums and forms of civic engagement
and social action. They are enhancing awareness, knowledge, and discourse around the key issues
identiﬁed above, and were able to conﬁrm a shift in attitudes, an increased capacity, in skills, resources
and status to engage in civic concerns, promote eﬀective participation and action as well as improve
systems and policies that ensure social justice and create a sustainable environment. Others have
discussed this in terms of developing cultural capital in local actors and helping local people to act as
agents for change [35,36].
3.5. Lessons Learned
Location is very important in terms of understanding the context and the local needs, knowledge
and aspirations is key to further engagement with the communities. Professor Buccellati has particularly
“It was vital for us to have a mutual respectful relationship with the locals and trust them
because we “archaeologists” can teach them about Urkesh but they can teach us about Mozan”
This aligns with McDavid [
] who also highlights the need for self-reﬂection by the social analysts
and that any social actor should be seen as a part of the social process analysis. Creating local focal
points is essential to establish trust and build further community-based activities. It is useful to bring
an evidence-based approach to scientiﬁc committees regarding decisions about the development of the
archaeological work when used as a cultural heritage project as this can lead to better engagement with
policy makers and help with further funding. In projects that aim to achieve soft power outcomes,
such as social change, mutual trust and understanding, etc., every group needs to feel included and be
heard as part of the decision-making process, infrastructure and development. This should be planned
from beginning to ensure inclusive growth and sustainability, tying in to the UN Sustainability Goal
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 14 of 16
16, if possible. In this project, this has been addressed in the design of the cultural based community
development programme, taking into consideration the conservative dynamics of the relationships
in the Gate of Urkesk to ensure the participation of everyone (women/men, youth/oldies/children,
Arabs/Kurds, community members and members of local authorities, like the municipality or the
mayor). The emphasis should be on stressing the multivocality concept of Hodder [
] and the concepts
of cultural diplomacy, as these allow individuals’ and communities’ voices to be heard, to share with
others and create mutual understanding and tolerance.
The work and approach of this case study to include women and have their voice heard needed
careful handling to ensure the intangible heritage was developed and promoted as well as the tangible
heritage. This is important if there is to be economic and social sustainability for marginalised groups.
Risk and assumptions could have been calculated better, especially when the majority of the work
done under the umbrella of the Gate of Urkesh was during what the so-called “Arab Spring”.
This article demonstrates that mobilising a community archaeology project can be a useful soft
power tool to support an inclusive process within isolated and diverse communities, leading to
growth in tangible and intangible cultural heritage. We discussed how community archaeology can
deal with the nature, cause and consequences of social exclusion and conﬂict, empower social and
cultural participation and discuss its soft power in enhancing opportunities, access to resources while
empowering everyone’s voice and respect of rights. Communities engaged with decisions and activities
related to community archaeology initiate a dialogue amongst them at ﬁrst and then with others in
order to validate their stories which leads to greater awareness of people’s common visions, values,
attitudes, fears and hopes feeding in greater understanding in creating a shift in communities’ thinking
and attitudes towards participation, partnership and inclusion. Community archaeology as a ﬁgurative
vehicle can empower individuals and communities as it supports creating cultural participation in
people to come together, discuss their past, present and future in order to build the integrated bridges
between who they are and who they want to become; reducing the risk of further conﬂict.
The model of community archaeology used in Mozan and the Gate of Urkesh is still a matter of
choice and left completely to the willingness of the archaeological missions working there, albeit, in this
case with a strong vision for inclusion from the leader. Mozan is a rare example and not constrained
by any kind of regulations. The case of Mozan reﬂects the need for new local/Syrian legislations and
regulations to ensure sustainability and achieve a balance between conservation of the site and local
development of people, groups and inclusive growth in the terms of possible cultural tourism. This case
serves as one example—it does not necessarily mean it could be replicated in every other conﬂict
zone around the world—but it does oﬀer a case study example of an approach to conﬂict resolution,
sustainable development through cultural heritage development and social inclusion. The need for
more sustainable networks led by locals is key to success and social change and follows the models
deployed by foreign and commonwealth oﬃces in cultural diplomacy terms. As said by a member of
the archaeological mission: “Depending on the local organic development is not enough, if we aim
to sustain an integral development there must be solid governmental policies and regulations that
support and enable communities”; these too could be linked better to civil society organisations and
tied into the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 to help attract outside funding that could help the
entrepreneurial growth skills of some of the women’s groups and other groups that have formed to
ensure access to justice, peace and strengthening institutions in support.
In developing skills such as trust, conﬁdence, resilience and empowerment people can be enabled
through culture to develop networks, and develop together rather than be isolated by geographies of
exclusion leading to sustainable development for inclusive cultural heritage, though, as we can see,
this is still in its infancy.
Sustainability 2019,11, 4670 15 of 16
Conceptualization, Y.M. and G.M.; Data curation, Y.M.; Formal analysis, Y.M. and G.M.;
Investigation, Y.M. and G.M.; Methodology, Y.M. and G.M.; Project administration, Y.M.; Supervision, G.M.
This research drew some of our expertise from working with the British Council on the project Arts,
Culture and Soft Power: Developing an Evidence Base; British Council: London, UK,
and The Contribution
of Art and Culture to Global Security and Stability; British Council: London, UK,
. One of the case
studies was based on creative projects in Syria.
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare no conﬂict of interest.
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