Cardinal News: Martinsville archaeologist helps track cultural sites in Ukraine endangered by war

Cardinal News: Martinsville archaeologist helps track cultural sites in Ukraine endangered by war
Hayden Bassett looks at a satellite image showing Russian missile damage near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial on the outskirts of Kyiv. (Randy Walker/Cardinal News photo)

March 18, 2022

by Randy Walker
Cardinal News

On March 3, the BBC reported that a Russian missile attack damaged a Holocaust memorial site in Ukraine, where, during World War II, German SS troops massacred thousands of Jews at Babyn Yar, a large ravine on the edge of Kyiv.

In the confusion of war, exact information is both critical and hard to come by. But there’s somebody in Martinsville helping the Ukrainians keep track of damage to their cultural and historical sites.

“This is what I was just looking at, Babyn Yar, the Holocaust site,” said Hayden Bassett, pointing to satellite imagery on a computer screen at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. “So this is the site right here. One thing that we were able to quickly identify, as soon as that news came out, is that the site wasn’t actually hit. This was part of the confusion around that. So this right here is the tower that was being targeted and the building beside it that was hit. But this is the actual site right here, the monument being right here, so it is adjacent. We can let the officials monitoring this, but also the folks on the ground, whose heritage this is, we can let them know that we’re not seeing any major impacts to that site.”

Bassett, 32, is from Martinsville. His father and older brother are in the furniture industry. He has degrees in archaeology and anthropology from the University of Virginia and William and Mary. He joined the museum in 2020.

“I direct the archaeology department here,” he said. “And within the archaeology department, there’s kind of two labs. One, the traditional archaeology lab where we do the  types of archaeological fieldwork and lab work you would expect.  And then also, within the archaeology department, is the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, which is where we do all of the satellite-based work,  including the work in support of the efforts in Ukraine right now.”

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