Playing Cards to Preserve Antiquities

Article excerpt

THE first of some 40,000 decks of playing cards--geared toward the preservation of archaeological sites in Iraq and Afghanistan--were shipped to Soldiers in-theater in August, said Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum, N.Y., Cultural Resources Program manager and designer of the cards.

The Department of Defense-funded cards are part of a broader training program that includes pocket information cards and briefing materials, she said.

Much as cards helped to familiarize World War II-era troops with Allied and enemy fighter planes and, much more recently, Soldiers fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the primary players in Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party, these cards will raise Soldiers' awareness of ancient sites and artifacts, thereby minimizing unnecessary damage to those sites and discouraging the illegal buying and selling of artifacts, Dr. Rush said.

Each suit in the card deck represents a particular theme--diamonds for artifacts, spades for diggings, and hearts for "winning hearts and minds," for example.

The cards contain such valuable tidbits of information as, "Look before you dig," and "Drive around, not over, archaeological sites."

"Future generations will be thankful for the monuments and sites spared today," reads another card, which features a picture of the bent minaret of Mosul's Great Mosque.

A blue-and-white shield symbolizes a protected site, and an image of a clay writing tablet attests to the fact that such representations of the earliest writings were found on a tablet discovered in Nippur. …