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Re: Monuments destroyed


On the subject of damage to Iraq's archaeological heritage
the rather journalistic text from Kevin T remains broadly valid, and
Prof. John Russell's comments are spot on.

Here are some brief additional points.
Some damage was caused to ancient monuments in the course of the
hostilities between Iraq and the UN forces in 1991.  This was principally
to the site of Ur, which was under the control of American units for a
short while, and to the fabric of the standing arch at Ctesiphon.

During the uprisings in the south and the north after the UN had withdrawn
its forces, serious looting of the local museums took place.  More than
4000 listed works of art and archaeological artefacts were lost, and
although lists have been published in the west, extremely few of these
pieces have surfaced in the art markets.

Later common criminal actions saw the theft of pieces of sculpture from
on-site museums (at Nimrud, Nineveh, Ashur, Khorsabad and Hatra).  Some of
these pieces were cut away from standing monuments, and some pieces have
been positively identified in the art markets.  There is a book about this
by Prof. John Russell, concentrating on the documented pieces from

At the same time illicit excavations have been taking place in various
parts of the country.  This is a consequence of (a) the economic plight of
the people, who see buried treasure as one possible lifeline, and (b) the
weak hold that the government has over some of the territory, especially
in Kurdistan and in the south, under the no-fly zones.  Particulary
serious illicit excavations have taken place at a 3rd millennium BC
Sumerian city called Umma (modern name: Tell Jokha), and cuneiform
archives from this site have been surfacing in the antiquities market,
with some being confiscated by Iraqi customs on the Jordanian
border.  Before 1990 Iraq had one of the best records of Middle Eastern
countries for preventing illicit excavation and the illicit export of
archaeological materials.  This is unfortunately no longer the case.

The Iraqi Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage does its best to contain
the damage.  In an effort to stop the worst of the looting, they have
started controlled excavations at the site of Umma, but this is a
dangerous course of action, as the looters turn up in large numnbers in
trucks, with arms.  The archaeologist directing this work was stabbed last
summer in what is believed to have been an attack instigated by looters.

I hope this may be of some use to those interested

Nicholas Postgate

On Fri, 17 Mar 2000, Eri Garuti wrote:

> +AD4-Dear all,
> +AD4-
> +AD4-I urgently need all information possible about the damages to Iraqi
> +AD4-monuments and archeological sites due to the 1991 war, recent bombings
> +AD4-and/or sanctions. Could you please suggest a good website (possibly with
> +AD4-some pictures) or simply send me a list of the damages, if you have one
> +AD4-(even partial)?
> +AD4-
> +AD4-Thank you very much,
> +AD4-
> +AD4-Eri Garuti
> +AD4-
> +AD4-
> -- 
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