KALAM. Analysis, protection and development of archaeological landscapes in Iraq and Uzbekistan through ICTs and community-based approaches


The KALAM (meaning “country” in Sumerian, but also “to speak” in Arabic) project aims at re-thinking our understanding and approach towards archaeological landscapes, adopting new practices for their documentation, preservation and management. “Lived-in landscapes” are the result of the interaction between communities of inhabitants and the environment, thus experiencing constant mutual changes. The project’s activities take place in Iraq and Uzbekistan, which present a similar socio-political fragile context and heritage-related threats and thus are in dire need of flexible and effective strategies towards the study and management of the landscapes. Three main interrelated research questions, framed on current gaps and needs, are dealt with through three main tasks.

The first question deals on how a combined approach of remote assessment and fieldwork activities can enhance the analysis and documentation of archaeological sites and landscapes. The extensive use of ICTs such as GIS and the newly developed, ground-breaking contribution of AI to identify archaeological sites on the terrain allows to improve current practices in terms of needed time for surveying and quality of resulting data.

The second question revolves around the classification and recording of threats, the successive training of different kinds of heritage operators and the implementation of pilot projects for the conservation and safeguarding of sites and landscapes. The KALAM partners aims at defining protocols focusing on areas experiencing high archaeological risk (our case studies are the mega site of Nineveh and the countryside of southern Iraq, the middle Zeravshan and Surkhandarya river valleys in Uzbekistan).

The final objective focuses on the systematic involvement of local communities and heritage operators in view of a shared enhancement plan for those landscapes: a variety of community engagement and awareness-raising activities conducted by the KALAM partners will also aim at the sustainability for the project-framed practices. The development of all these activities relies on the contribution of junior researchers and the outreach to local students, involved in fieldwork and training workshops.

The ultimate goal of KALAM is inspiring people to join in the protection effort of newly perceived archaeological landscapes also in view of their enhancement for the common good (including exploitation of cultural resources), in order to extend the project outcomes even after its conclusion.


Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Cultural Heritage

Duration of the project

48 months (2022-2025)

KALAM project coordinator

Nicolò Marchetti (University of Bologna)

Principal Investigators

Nicolò Marchetti (University of Bologna), Adelheid Otto (Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich), Khalid Salim Ismael (University of Mosul), Farhod Maksudov (Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan)

Funding Institutions

Volkswagen Foundation (Germany)