Museum of Lost Objects
March 10, 2016 11:30 PM   Subscribe

A series of ten articles at the BBC News Magazine by Kanishk Tharoor and Maryam Maruf tracing the stories of ten antiquities and cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria: (1) The Winged Bull of Nineveh; (2) The Temple of Bel; (3) Tell of Qarqur; (4) Aleppo’s minaret; (5) The Lion of al-Lat; (6) Mar Elian Monastery; (7) Al-Ma’arri: the unacceptable poet; (8) The Genie of Nimrud; (9) The Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Church in Deir al-Zour; and (10) Looted Sumerian Seal, Baghdad.

The articles accompany a series of broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 (probably UK-only), which have also been made available in podcast form.

I was particularly interested to learn, from the 7th article, about the blind, ascetic 10th/11th-century Syrian poet Al-Ma’arri apparently known as ‘one of the three foremost atheists in Islamic history’, some of whose verses are on-line, courtesy of the Humanistic Texts website, in English translation.
posted by misteraitch (14 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Al-Ma'Arri I first read in my grandmothers college poetry text book. (1923)

I love the line: 'Messemeth, the days are dromedaries lean and jaded/'

Thanks for posting this.
posted by clavdivs at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Man these stories are heartbreaking. All this art, and history, and culture, and all these lives destroyed, and for what.
posted by rifflesby at 12:28 AM on March 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

An acquaintance who got a degree in art history and is now working in establishing provenance and keeping looted artifacts out of antiquities auctions was already telling me a couple of years ago that they were horrified by seeing satellite photos of entire landscapes dug up with construction equipment by looters searching for undiscovered sites.
posted by XMLicious at 12:48 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Looters have been doing this among the Egyptian pyramids since millenia
posted by infini at 1:54 AM on March 11, 2016

thank you for this post, I've often wondered about all these things in the cradle of civilization.
posted by infini at 2:06 AM on March 11, 2016

When we put those messages from Earth on the Pioneer and Voyager missions, I think we had the right idea but the wrong target.

We should instead build the biggest encyclopedia of our culture that we can - pictures, 3d models, text, the works - together with the ab-initio technology creation instructions, and attach it to a comet on a centuries-long orbit. Then, when - if - we finally come to our senses, we can at least revisit, if not recreate, what we destroyed.

(Yes, Foundation, etc. But that was science fiction.)
posted by Devonian at 2:42 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just happen to have a Ma'ari line on the stickynote of my PC that I bumped into somewhere.
"This World resembles a cadaver,
And we around it dogs that bark;
And he who eats from it is the loser;
he who abstains takes the better part.
And certain is a dawn disaster
to him unwaylaid in the dark."

Liked the poetry, didn't know who he was, so thanks for the post.
posted by BinGregory at 2:46 AM on March 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, devonian, there's always the Georgia Guidestones, though they don't contain much information.
posted by Harald74 at 3:36 AM on March 11, 2016

A picture of the winged bull was one of the first things I remember from a widening view of the world and time - I think it was in a book on the "World of the Bible" (or somesuch). It fascinated me, and has since then always had a place in my heart.

So sad.
posted by eclectist at 4:35 AM on March 11, 2016

Destroyed is terrible but looted? That's just British.
posted by srboisvert at 6:46 AM on March 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Destroyed is terrible but looted? That's just British.

And French. And German. And Venetian. And Russian. And Roman.

I could go on....
posted by IndigoJones at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2016

Fuckin' iconoclasts. Kinda hope for an Islamic counter-reformation, though without the whole Inquisition thing.

Anybody know what the game "dana" is that's referenced with the Winged Bull of Nineveh? My best guess is that it's a misspelling of "dama," which is a checkers/draughts game (attested in Turkey, Syria, Spain, Hungary, etc. — "dama," from the Spanish for "lady," is what the checkers get called when they're kinged/queened), but those boxes don't look like that's what they're playing. My Arabic illiteracy and the TONS of google-noise means that I can't find any more likely contenders.
posted by klangklangston at 2:48 PM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

yep, fuck iconoclasm (the literal kind). Once I knew a history major who asked why did people react so strongly to the dynamiting of an ancient Buddha statue, since it's "not like it's people". This came from a history major; ugh.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 5:33 PM on March 11, 2016

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