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]

[casi] US Troops 'vandalise' ancient city of Ur,6903,958429,00.html

Troops 'vandalise' ancient city of Ur

Ed Vulliamy

Sunday May 18, 2003
The Observer (London)

One of the greatest wonders of civilisation, and
probably the world's most ancient structure - the
Sumerian city of Ur in southern Iraq - has been
vandalised by American soldiers and airmen, according
to aid workers in the area.

They claim that US forces have spray-painted the
remains with graffiti and stolen kiln-baked bricks
made millennia ago. As a result, the US military has
put the archaeological treasure, which dates back
6,000 years, off-limits to its own troops. Any
violations will be punishable in military courts.

Land immediately adjacent to Ur has been chosen by the
Pentagon for a sprawling airfield and military base.
Access is highly selective, screened and subject to
military escorts, which - even if agreed - need to be
arranged days or weeks in advance and carefully skirt
the areas of reported damage.

There has been no official response to the allegations
of vandalism - reported to The Observer by aid workers
and one concerned US officer.

Ur is believed by many to be the birthplace of the
prophet Abraham. It was the religious seat of the
civilisation of Sumer at the dawn of the line of
dynasties which ruled Mesopotamia starting about 4000
BC. Long before the rise of the Egyptian, Greek or
Roman empires, it was here that the wheel was invented
and the first mathematical system developed. Here, the
first poetry was written, notably the epic Gilganesh,
a classic of ancient literature.

The most prominent monument is the best preserved
ziggurat - stepped pyramid - in the Arab world,
initially built by the Sumerians around 4000 BC and
restored by Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century BC.

The Pentagon has elected to build its massive and
potentially permanent base right alongside the site,
so that the view from the peak of the ziggurat - more
or less unchanged for 6,000 years - will be radically

Each hour, long convoys of trucks heave gravel and
building materials through checkpoints and the barbed
wire perimeter extends daily.

There are reports that walls have been damaged by
spray-painted graffiti, mostly patriotic or other
slogans, and regimental mottos. One graffiti reads:
'SEMPER FE' - Always Faithful - the motto of the
Marines, who stormed through this region on their way
to Baghdad, and form a contingent at the base.

Other reports by groups who cannot be named for fear
of losing access to medical patients being treated on
the base say there has been widespread stealing of
clay bricks baked to build and restore the structures
at Ur.

The Army Public Affairs office at Ur refused to speak
to The Observer.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]