Protecting Iraqi Cultural Heritage: Deterring Antiquities Looting and Trafficking

Priceless artefacts in museums in Iraq have been protected from the threat of destruction and theft by marking them with a unique invisible code, SmartWater traceable liquid, in a scheme that could now be replicated around the world.

Through this project we aimed to enhance the protection of antiquities and archaeological collections held in two major museums of Iraq, by means of the application of SmartWater forensic traceable liquid to non-organic artefacts (ceramics, metal, stone, glass).

In close collaboration with the SmartWater Foundation, who provided a very generous discount on their product for this project (reduction of 80% for the Iraq Museum, 75% for the Slemani Museum), the Iraq Museum (Baghdad, Iraq), and Slemani Museum (Sulaimani, Iraq), we have provided expert training to a total of 43 museum professionals in the application of SmartWater and in the appropriate cataloguing and recording of the protocols of application.

These trained individuals have brought to completion the application of SmartWater traceable liquid solution to a combined total of 273,000 non-organic artefacts in the collections of these two museums.

Project Details


Location: Baghdad, As Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, Middle East, Asia Organiser(s): University of Reading: Department of Archaeology Project partner(s): The SmartWater Foundation, The Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, The Iraq Museum (Baghdad), The Slemani Museum (Sulaimani, Iraq) Funder(s): British Council Cultural Protection Fund in partnership with DCMS Funding received: £156,000 Commencement Date: 07/2019 Project Status: Completed
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