The Smash of Civilizations
July 8, 2005 10:09 PM   Subscribe

'...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
posted by y2karl (11 comments total)

The Smash of Civilizations link does not work for me. Let's see if this does. Yes.
posted by y2karl at 10:26 PM on July 8, 2005

Such a damn shame.
posted by teece at 10:29 PM on July 8, 2005

We are all burning in an existential hell....

What are the most important pieces of history? Good, now fucking smash and destroy them.
posted by kuatto at 10:49 PM on July 8, 2005

I have heard it said by one commentator that the chaos in Iraq is deliberate, to allow the looting of the country. Seems petty, when so many billions are involved. But then, spoiled brats can be petty.
posted by Goofyy at 11:20 PM on July 8, 2005

Previous posting of WMF's 2002 list. Thanks for this, y2karl; I'd considered posting it again but was hoping someone else would. The explanation in the FAQ about why some sites don't get relisted is kind of sad:

Sites are typically not listed again on the World Monuments Watch list for one of two reasons: either significant progress has been made toward the preservation of a site—the list having served its purpose—or inclusion on the list has not proved to be an effective stimulus for positive change. In the latter case, it is determined by the selection panel that renewed inclusion on the World Monuments Watch list would have little positive effect.
posted by mediareport at 12:01 AM on July 9, 2005

Birthplace and mortuary of civilisation.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:50 AM on July 9, 2005

From the second link:
As we now know, the American forces made no effort to prevent the looting of the great cultural institutions of Iraq, its soldiers simply watching vandals enter and torch the buildings. Said Arjomand, an editor of the journal Studies on Persianate Societies and a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote, "Our troops, who have been proudly guarding the Oil Ministry, where no window is broken, deliberately condoned these horrendous events." American commanders claim that, to the contrary, they were too busy fighting and had too few troops to protect the museum and libraries. However, this seems to be an unlikely explanation. During the battle for Baghdad, the U.S. military was perfectly willing to dispatch some 2,000 troops to secure northern Iraq's oilfields, and their record on antiquities did not improve when the fighting subsided.

At the 6,000-year-old Sumerian city of Ur with its massive ziggurat, or stepped temple-tower (built in the period 2112 - 2095 B.C. and restored by Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century B.C.), the Marines spray-painted their motto, "Semper Fi" (semper fidelis, always faithful) onto its walls. The military then made the monument "off limits" to everyone in order to disguise the desecration that had occurred there, including the looting by U.S. soldiers of clay bricks used in the construction of the ancient buildings.

Until April 2003, the area around Ur, in the environs of Nasiriyah, was remote and sacrosanct. However, the U.S. military chose the land immediately adjacent to the ziggurat to build its huge Tallil Air Base with two runways measuring 12,000 and 9,700 feet respectively and four satellite camps. In the process, military engineers moved more than 9,500 truckloads of dirt in order to build 350,000 square feet of hangars and other facilities for aircraft and Predator unmanned drones. They completely ruined the area, the literal heartland of human civilization, for any further archaeological research or future tourism.

On October 24, 2003, according to the Global Security Organization, the Army and Air Force built its own modern ziggurat. It "opened its second Burger King at Tallil. The new facility, co-located with [a] . . . Pizza Hut, provides another Burger King restaurant so that more service men and women serving in Iraq can, if only for a moment, forget about the task at hand in the desert and get a whiff of that familiar scent that takes them back home."
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2005

Good god, this makes me sick.
posted by languagehat at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2005

I'm no specialist in this area, but for me the names are so evocative of basic public high school courses taken years ago in art history (the early chapters of our text, probably) and what our curriculum called "Development of Civilization." The mere mention of the Tigris or the Euphrates in a story about shootings there, or even The Daily Show's frequent pun on Mesopotamia sometimes brings flashbacks of looking at the very low-res copies our teacher gave us of inscriptions from the Code of Hammurabi or drawings of ziggurats, reminding me again that the endangered monuments are/were part of my heritage too. Our heritage.
posted by PY at 12:21 AM on July 10, 2005

Good god, this makes me sick.

Me too.
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2005

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