Nov 122007
Authors: Katy Hallock

Those critical of the government for not learning from history may soon need to pull another card – literally.

CSU researchers, alongside Department of Defense officials, have found a way to use the timeless military pastime of card playing to help preserve historical and cultural artifacts.

In an effort to prevent U.S. military operations from further destroying cultural items in the Middle East, researchers created cards that depict images with tips on how to identify and preserve fragile, often historical, elements of Middle Eastern culture.

Since the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, the military insurgence in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused substantial damage to the Middle East’s cultural integrity, said James Zeidler, a graduate student and the lead CSU researcher with the project.

“When artifacts are destroyed, a piece of the cultural puzzle is destroyed,” Zeidler said.

A vast majority of the damage to artifacts and monuments is the result of political unrest and looting.

One DoD official said, however, that while troops are willing to go out of their way to prevent such damage, most aren’t aware of their lasting footprint.

Dr. Laurie Rush, a researcher with the Historical Preservation Foundation came up with the idea of informative playing cards in 2004 after working on a similar DoD project focused on environmental awareness among troops.

The DoD sanctioned the foundation after military damage continued to affect Middle Eastern culture.

CSU researchers have also worked with Rush on past projects.

She asked CSU to team up with DoD archaeologists, Mesopotamian scholars, soldiers and graphic designers to create the cards. The cards depict cultural items along with facts for troops about what the item is, why it is important, how to locate it and how to protect it.

Some cards bring the subject home, as one depicts the Statue of Liberty and asks, “How would we feel if someone destroyed her torch?”

Zeidler also said that the purpose of the cards is for the troops to be “sensitized to the quality of world renowned archaeology.”

After a year long design process, the cards were printed by the U.S. Playing Card Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, and more than 50,000 decks were produced and stored for shipment in a Loveland warehouse. Some cards are being shipped to troops overseas and others to training bases around the U.S.

Zeidler said these cards would become a part of the training process to “alert the soldiers to the presence of these sites and heighten the sensitivity towards them.”

A few soldiers have already received them.

“Since the emphasis on heritage preservation, it seems like the local people in the war zone share the same goal as the military to protect the land,” one soldier wrote to Rush.

And Zeidler is optimistic about the cards impact.

“It’s a pilot project, but the response has been extremely positive by both the soldiers and the Pentagon,” Zeidler said.

The card decks will only be distributed to the U.S. Armed Forces and are not available for purchase.

Staff Writer Katy Hallock can be reached at

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