The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

RE: Monuments destroyed

Dear Eri and all,

Here is all the information that I have. Please share w/ us what you find, and thank you for this 

One article and a resolution are enclosed.



This article by Kevin Tibbles gives insight into the sad fate of part of Iraq's cultural heritage 
as a result of the ongoing war. +ACI-In a sense, it is a total war against the past.,+ACI- says 
Professor John Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art: +ACI-History is being erased, with no 
possibility of being recovered.+ACI-  (February 19, 1999)


Iraq's ancient Babylon bites the dust: Priceless artifacts go missing amid isolation and turmoil



BABYLON, Iraq, Feb. 19 (1999)- Within the borders of present-day Iraq, thousands of years before 
the West's showdown with Saddam Hussein, stood the ancient civilization of Babylon. Once recounted 
in myths as the +ACI-birthplace of the modern world,+ACI- Iraq's so-called +ACI-cradle of 
civilization+ACI- is now crumbling.

ANCIENT BABYLON, a site of Biblical lore a couple hours south of Baghdad, is only one of more than 
10,000 vital archeological sites in Iraq that have fallen into complete disrepair. Scientists for 
hundreds of years have made their way to modern-day Iraq's windswept deserts to dig in the sands 
for answers to modern civilization's most perplexing puzzles.

It was a team of German archeologists in the late 1800s that uncovered much of Babylon's ancient 
palace and temples. The biblical Tower of Babel once stood here, and historians still seek the 
secrets of the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the ancient wonders of the world. 
+ACIAWw-Babylon+AF0- is where you have ... the first examples of writing, the first villages, the 
first wheel, the first boats,+ACI- says Moyad Said, director of Baghdad's Iraqi Museum. Yet the 
20th century turmoil that now engulfs this troubled region threatens to destroy Babylon's history 

Sanctions imposed on President Saddam Hussein +AFs-sic+AF0- by the West now prevent scientists from 
visiting Iraq's treasured archeological sites. There is little money to preserve and protect 
priceless remains, so thousand-year-old structures sit abandoned. Clay bricks with 5,000-year-old 
wedge-shaped +ACI-cuneiform+ACI- writing on them from the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, one of the 
most famous rulers of the ancient world, are strewn in the sand.



But even more threatening to the history contained in these ancient sites are thieves and 
profiteers who steal, loot and smuggle the valuable artifacts out of the country to be sold to the 
highest bidder. +ACI-What seems to be happening in Iraq is unprecedented in any Middle Eastern 
country in modern times,+ACI- says Professor John Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art. 
+ACI-Namely, there is the wholesale looting of famous and undiscovered archeological sites.+ACI- 
During the Gulf War, priceless Babylon artifacts were removed for safekeeping from the Iraqi Museum 
in Baghdad. The items have since disappeared, and display cases sit dark and empty.

Prior to the Gulf War in the early 1990s, Russell helped excavate the ancient city of Ninevah in 
northern Iraq. He documented what he found. Recently, an Iraqi friend sent him photographs of the 
same site, showing that all of its priceless historical beauty had been stolen. +ACI-History is 
being erased, with no possibility of being recovered,+ACI- Russell says. +ACI-In a sense, it is a 
total war against the past.+ACI- 

Many of the sites being looted have never been studied by scientists, so when the goods are dug up 
and moved, the historical record is damaged. There will be no record of where the piece came from 
or its significance in relation to the area in which it was found. The Iraqis do not know what to 
do to combat the looting. They are a people at once proud of their history and devastated by what 
is taking place before them. The Iraqi Museum's Said is visibly upset as he takes me on a walking 
tour of his country's main museum in a now derelict Baghdad neighborhood. Row upon row of display 
cases sit empty gathering dust. The glass cabinets were emptied of their artifacts prior to the 
Gulf War for safekeeping during the Allied bombing campaign, and many of the historical pieces have 
simply vanished.

He pauses next to a 3,000-year-old +ACI-winged bull+ACI- - a stone statue 10 feet in height. The 
bull has been cut into 11 chunks, its value virtually destroyed. +ACI-Who did this?+ACI- I ask. 
+ACI-This winged bull was cut up by the thieves,+ACI- Said responds, pointing to deep cuts in the 
reassembled piece. +ACI-They used a mechanical saw to cut through here ... and here. They were in 
the process of smuggling it out the country bit by bit before they were caught.+ACI- Said says the 
majority of smugglers get away scot-free over Iraq's porous borders. Iraqis are so poor that they 
have resorted to pick-pocketing their own history to survive, he says.



The priceless artifacts are not simply being scooped up and dumped onto a black market to be 
peddled in the antique and curio shops of Western Europe and North America. Nicholas Postgate of 
England's Cambridge University says the black market also includes unscrupulous dealers who pass 
the goods on to wealthy collectors for huge sums. +ACI-Sometimes it may be obvious to any 
reasonable person that the artifact must have been stolen,+ACI- he says. +ACI-But because it can't 
be +AFs-proven+AF0- a dealer will say, 'Well, why should I worry?'+ACI- +ACIAWw-The artifacts+AF0- 
are gone, and are presumably in some collector's collection out of sight of the rest of the 
world,+ACI- Postgate says.

Said says he can only hope that by the time Iraq manages to reconcile itself with its Arab 
neighbors and the rest of the world, some of this country's glorious history will be left. +ACI-We, 
in effect, will never be able to study our past,+ACI- he says. +ACI-Either the artifacts remain 
buried under the sands forever, or they will be buried in the private vaults of wealthy collectors. 
In the end, we may never see them again.+ACI-

In response to the catastrophic looting of Iraq's cultural heritage, which has been one of the 
lesser publicized crises precipitated by the UN sanctions, an international group of 145 
preservation authorities at a recent conference at Rutgers University unanimously adopted a 
resolution urging all governments to support international efforts in behalf of Iraq's endangered 

This resolution was also endorsed by the Professional Responsibilities Committee of the 
Archaeological Institute of America, the world's largest professional archaeology organization.



The following resolution was adopted unanimously (with two abstentions by the U.S. and UNESCO 
representatives) by the 145 participants at the international conference +ACI-Art, Antiquity and 
the Law: Preserving our Global Cultural Heritage,+ACI- sponsored by Rutgers, The State University 
of New Jersey, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, from October 30 to November 1, 1998:

Recognizing the present crisis atmosphere, we express grave concern for the safety of the world's 
cultural heritage in Iraq. The continuing international sanctions, imposed by the United Nations 
following the Persian Gulf conflict of 1991, have brought archaeological research, conservation, 
and museum activities in Iraq to a standstill. 

The Department of Antiquities is unable to retain professional staff and guards to protect even the 
most famous Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Islamic sites from systematic, large-scale looting. 

The training of new Iraqi archaeologists is hindered by the embargo on current publications and by 
their isolation from on-going international research. 

In consequence, there is a loss of irreplaceable information on human history and a flood of 
smuggled Mesopotamian artifacts into the international antiquities market. The result will be a 
long-term adverse effect on the management of cultural heritage in Iraq. 

We therefore urge the United Nations Security Council:

To exclude the cultural and educational spheres from the embargo. 
To allow the supply to Iraq of materials and publications related to cultural activities. 
To allow the resumption of foreign scholarly participation in cultural heritage-related activities 
in Iraq.


+AD4- -----Original Message-----
+AD4- From:
+AD4- Behalf Of Eri Garuti
+AD4- Sent: Friday, March 17, 2000 9:53 AM
+AD4- To: CASI
+AD4- Subject: Monuments destroyed
+AD4- +AD4-Dear all,
+AD4- +AD4-
+AD4- +AD4-I urgently need all information possible about the damages to Iraqi
+AD4- +AD4-monuments and archeological sites due to the 1991 war, recent bombings
+AD4- +AD4-and/or sanctions. Could you please suggest a good website (possibly with
+AD4- +AD4-some pictures) or simply send me a list of the damages, if you have one
+AD4- +AD4-(even partial)?
+AD4- +AD4-
+AD4- +AD4-Thank you very much,
+AD4- +AD4-
+AD4- +AD4-Eri Garuti
+AD4- +AD4-
+AD4- +AD4-
+AD4- -- 
+AD4- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
+AD4- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
+AD4- For removal from list, email
+AD4- Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]