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Jordan creates major antiques info bank
Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:10:49 GMT
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Jordan's archaeology chief Ziad al-Saad
Jordan has launched MEGA, the world's largest online antiquities database, in an attempt to preserve the country's archeological treasures.

Launched on Tuesday, the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities provides users with detailed information on Jordanian ancient sites, AP reported.

The $1 million project was developed in cooperation with Getty Institute of Los Angeles and the New York-based World Monuments Fund.

"Jordan is at the forefront of safeguarding its heritage," Getty's director Tim Whalen said during the unveiling ceremony of the system also attended by Jordan's antiquities chief Ziad al-Saad in Amman.

"A piece of software is not going to stop looting," Whalen said, but MEGA's cataloging system will provide "greater protection and attention to archaeological heritage."

MEGA uses Geographic Information System, similar to Google Earth, to map 11,000 registered sites in Jordan and users can get full information on what they contain as well as the existing reports on their current condition.

Public visitors of the site can use the material to plan visits, while scholars and inspectors approved by Jordan's Antiquities can update the information for other experts and authorities to follow and keep track of threats to the sites.

Al-Saad said MEGA can be a good model for other countries of the region especially in Iraq, which has suffered great damage and extensive theft in its archaeological sites following the 2003 US-led invasion of the country.

Although archeologists have been using GIS and similar technologies to record excavations and follow findings at ancient sites, experts say MEGA is the first of a nationwide system providing such data.

MEGA "is the first of its kind,” said director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman Barbara A. Porter.

"It has been a huge undertaking in terms of its breadth, time and finance. Rarely do you find that amount of money involved in creating such a system," she added.

MEGA is the "first countrywide system used by an antiquities department" and is unique since it can be used both for research and for managing sites, said assistant director at Harvard University's Semitic Museum Joseph Greene.

Jordan is one of the famous international tourist hubs due to its numerous World Heritage sites, including the 2,000 year-old rose rock city of Petra.

The country also boasts of its historical sites dating back from the Neolithic Age to Biblical times and the Crusades.

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