Seeds from Syria are returning to the Svalbard Vault

From Atlas Obscura: Seeds From Syria Are Returning to the Svalbard Vault.

In 2008, when the Norwegian Government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust teamed up to open the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, they thought they were planning far ahead. The vault—essentially a massive safe deposit box for the world’s seeds, kept safe and cold by Arctic ice—is meant to guard against future disasters, like nuclear war or climate change. If such a horror ever necessitates a total agricultural restart, these seeds will be, in the words of their caretakers, “the final back-up.”

But the future has a funny way of sneaking up on you. In 2015—much sooner than anticipated—the vault was turned from ark to library, issuing hundreds of thousands of seed samples to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Today, ICARDA is returning the seeds, successfully completing what amounts to the Vault’s first real-world run. [continue]

‘Commando’ archaeologists to rescue threatened artefacts in Middle East

From ‘Commando’ archaeologists to rescue threatened artefacts in Middle East.

The British Government is helping bankroll a team of “rescue archaeologists” to lead efforts to save priceless artefacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale will host a summit on the issue later this year and is setting up a cultural protection fund to underpin the action.

After pressure from the British Museum among others, the UK is signing up to The Hague convention on the protection of cultural property in armed conflict.

IS has deliberately demolished ancient mosques and destroyed treasures dating back to ancient Persia and Graeco-Roman times on the grounds that they “promote idolatry”. [continue]