Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 

Historical Artifacts "Liberated" from Iraq, Others Destroyed

Although the looting of the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad got some coverage in the early days of the war, the looting of Iraqi historical and archaeological treasures seems to have continued unabated since then. There is an article by Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly in the Daily Star about the looting of ancient Mesopotamian sites in Nasiriya and southern Iraq. Some of the most revealing quotes are from: `Abd al-Amir Hamadani, the archaeologist responsible for the Nasiriya district; Donny Georges, the US-appointed Director of Iraq's museums; and Zainab Bahrani, a Columbia University professor who had been a Senior Advisor for Culture for the coalition forces.

Hamadani:
More than 100 Sumerian cities have been destroyed by the looters since the beginning of the war... It's a disaster that all we are keeping watch on but about which we can do little. We are incapable of stopping the looting. We are five archaeologists, some hundred guards and, occasionally, a couple of policemen - and they are a million armed looters, backed by their tribes and the dealers.

We are in danger every time we go on a tour to an archaeological site. A couple of weeks ago, while on site, six vehicles surrounded our cars and we were shot at. After that, we were assured that the next time, we would be killed...

...There were no Italian forces at the Nasiriya Museum when the library was set ablaze. The smugglers are now controlling life in this district and nothing is stopping them from looting.
Georges:
No one can stop them [the looters]. Although the Coalition forces are well aware of what is going on, no real effort is being made to stop the looting. The Italian Carabinieri (soldiers) are the only force that worked on this issue for a few months. Their efforts were fruitful in some parts of the Nasiriya district because the tribe leaders there are never interested in confronting the military.
Bahrani:
They have leveled archaeological grounds in parts of the site to build a landing zone for helicopters... The continuous movements of helicopters have caused the destruction of a wall at the temple of Nabu, and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah. Both date back to the sixth century B.C.
Bajjaly writes:
The U.S. Army program to destroy military left overs from the old regime and the war is harming the ancient site - a Parthian city with a blend of Hellenistic, Roman and Arab styles. Twice a day the army conducts controlled explosions of recovered munitions and mines at the nearby military base. The constant seismic activity is damaging the stone arches in the main temple and the outer wall of the city and this may cause the collapse of parts of this site, listed as a World Heritage monument.

The anarchy that is everywhere in post-Saddam Iraq is destroying the country described in schoolbooks worldwide as the "cradle of civilization."

With over 10,000 archaeological sites still buried, humanity may just be witnessing the destruction of the cradle - the massacre of Mesopotamia.

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