The Devastation of Iraq's Past.
"Since the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April 2003, the international press has accorded considerable space to the country's imperiled ancient heritage. Much of this coverage, however, has been devoted to the museum, the impressive campaign to recover its stolen works, and the continued struggle to reopen its galleries. Only occasional, anecdotal reports—mostly from the first year of the conflict—have borne witness to large-scale plunder of archaeological sites
, to which the damage is irreversible."
is in the news.
The modern city
is small, but built on the colossal ruins
of the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate
. Google Earth
reveals amazing details
of the ancient city, one of the largest archaeological sites
in the world.
Iraq is full of fabled ancient ruins
, many in bad shape
, but which still fire the imagination. Some highlights: Ur
, birthplace of Abraham
, still contained many beautiful artifacts
when it was last excavated in the 1920s. Then there is vanished Cunaxa
, near Baghdad's airport, where the Ten Thousand, a group of Greek mercenaries, fought their way back to Greece in a 1,000 mile, two-year-long retreat described by Xenophon
in the Anabasis
(and which served as the inspiration for cult films/games
and bad science fiction
alike). The ruins of the city of Nineveh
were discovered in the 19th century just across the river from Mosul, containing art
confirming elements of the Biblical account of the conquests of King Sennacherib. Most famously, the ruins of Babylon (not much to look at
, the best bit
being in Berlin) have seen much abuse, from Saddam's awful rebuilding of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar
to reports of recent damage by coalition troops
'...Today, such famous sites as the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, the ziggurat at Ur, the temple precinct at Babylon, and a ninth-century spiral minaret at Samarra have been scarred by violence, while equally important ancient sites, particularly in the southern provinces, are being ravaged by looters who work day and night to fuel an international art market hungry for antiquities. Historic districts in urban areas have also suffered from vandalism, looting, and artillery fire. In response to such widespread damage and continuing threats to our collective cultural heritage and the significance of the sites at risk, World Monument Fund
has taken the unprecedented step of including the entire country of Iraq
on its 2006 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites
.'The 2003- Iraq War & Archaeology
The Smash of Civilizations
Protecting the Cradle
Kirkuk Air Base -- US Army Colonel works with Iraqi archaeological officials to protect nearby ancient sites.
Meanwhile at more secluded mounds, looters continue to plunder the sites and to erase the tangible record of the world's earliest civilizations. "When you come here at night, it looks like a city, there are so many lights," [Archaeological official Abdul-Amir] Hamdani said, looking out over the arid scrubland where thieves swarm after dark.
Have I ever told you what the river is like on a hot summer night? At dusk the mist hangs in long white bands over the water; the twilight fades and the lights of the town shine out on either bank, with the river, dark and smooth and full of mysterious reflections, like a road of triumph through the midst. - Gertrude Bell writing of the Euphrates near Baghdad. Gertrude Bell
- daughter of the desert
, Uncrowned Queen of Iraq
, Advisor to kings and Ally of Lawrence of Arabia.
Gertrude Bell was a traveller
and mountaineer, recruited by British Intelligence to work in the Middle East during the First World War and, who later worked for the British Government in Baghdad. Bell's influence
on Middle Eastern politics made her the most powerful woman in the British Empire in the years after World War I
. She was a archeologist, writer, translated the poetry of Hafiz
and a photographer
as well. 1909: Letters from Gertrude Bell, dated May 14
and May 20
. She died early in the morning of July 12th, 1926, 58 years old, from an overdose of sleeping pills--whether accidental or not is not known. She is buried in Baghdad, where her grave is still visited and her memory revered. Cherchez La Femme
The stuff from which Myth is made.
A recent discovery of a meteor impact crater in the middle-east, dating around 2300BC, is shedding new light on the decline of many cultures and the rise of many legends.