Glasgow archaeologist's bid to save earthquake-hit Kurdish castle

Glasgow archaeologist's bid to save earthquake-hit Kurdish castle

A SCOTTISH-BASED academic is heading up an international rescue effort to save a famous Kurdish landmark which was badly damaged by an earthquake last year.


The Qala Shirwana, a 200-year-old castle in Iraqi Kurdistan, attracts around 100,000 visitors each year.


It features prominently in the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) drive to attract more international tourists.


Dr Claudia Glatz, a senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Glasgow, is leading the Qala Shirwana Cultural Heritage Project (QaSCHP) to help stabilise and restore the important historic monument.


Glatz is an expert in the archaeology of the ancient Near East and co-director of the Sirwan Regional Project, an international archaeological research project that has been exploring the area since 2013.


The expert, who has just returned from a site visit to Qala Shirwana, said: “The castle is of immense significance to the local population, who are still coming to visit it despite the earthquake damage.


“During our trip to Iraq, we carried out preliminary research into the castle’s history, which includes many architectural modifications, damage and rebuilding over the course of the past two centuries.


“Together with our colleagues in Kurdistan, we are developing a plan to stabilise and rebuild the structure using traditional materials and techniques wherever possible.”


The earthquake struck on November 12 last year. It shook the Kurdish region and neighbouring parts of Iran. More than 500 people were killed and more than 7000 injured.


The castle suffered significant structural damages as the shocks dislocated walls, terraces and caused the collapse of a central cupola on the structure’s roof. The four main towers also sustained significant cracks.


The Qala Shirwana is located on the outskirts of the modern town of Kalar, one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s fast-growing urban areas.


The baked-brick 19th-century structure is believed to have been built by Muhammad Pasha Khasro beg-i-Jaff, a local tribal leader under the Ottoman Empire from 1866-74.


It is built on top of one of the tallest archaeological sites in the Garmian region, whose occupation history spans several millennia.


Before the earthquake, the castle housed the Folkloric Museum of Garmian, a collection of around 400 artefacts and historic photographs.


Following an initial phase that saw the removal of earthquake rubble, the second phase of the project will focus on the stabilisation of the most affected parts of the castle.


A third and final phase will focus on the reconstruction of the central cupola and the castle’s interior.


QaSCHP is carried out in close collaboration with senior staff at the General Directorate of Antiquities in Kurdistan, with the assistance of Glasgow-based PhD student Neil Erskine.