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Archaeology and the Iraq war

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  • minnesotastan
    Posting this runs the risk of introducing politics into this website, but perhaps it will also stimulate some posts, without which the Ancient Waterways
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 9, 2007
      Posting this runs the risk of introducing politics into this website,
      but perhaps it will also stimulate some posts, without which the
      Ancient Waterways website may as well be closed.


      from the U.K. Guardian -

      In Iraq's four-year looting frenzy, the allies have become the vandals


      British and American collusion in the pillaging of Iraq's heritage is
      a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict

      Simon Jenkins
      Friday June 8, 2007
      The Guardian

      Fly into the American air base of Tallil outside Nasiriya in central
      Iraq and the flight path is over the great ziggurat of Ur, reputedly
      the earliest city on earth. Seen from the base in the desert haze or
      the sand-filled gloom of dusk, the structure is indistinguishable from
      the mounds of fuel dumps, stores and hangars. Ur is safe within the
      base compound. But its walls are pockmarked with wartime shrapnel and
      a blockhouse is being built over an adjacent archaeological site. When
      the head of Iraq's supposedly sovereign board of antiquities and
      heritage, Abbas al-Hussaini, tried to inspect the site recently, the
      Americans refused him access to his own most important monument.

      Yesterday Hussaini reported to the British Museum on his struggles to
      protect his work in a state of anarchy. It was a heart breaking
      presentation. Under Saddam you were likely to be tortured and shot if
      you let someone steal an antiquity; in today's Iraq you are likely to
      be tortured and shot if you don't. The tragic fate of the national
      museum in Baghdad in April 2003 was as if federal troops had invaded
      New York city, sacked the police and told the criminal community that
      the Metropolitan was at their disposal. The local tank commander was
      told specifically not to protect the museum for a full two weeks after
      the invasion. Even the Nazis protected the Louvre.

      When I visited the museum six months later, its then director, Donny
      George, proudly showed me the best he was making of a bad job. He was
      about to reopen, albeit with half his most important objects stolen.
      The pro-war lobby had stopped pretending that the looting was nothing
      to do with the Americans, who were shamefacedly helping retrieve
      stolen objects under the dynamic US colonel, Michael Bogdanos (author
      of a book on the subject). The vigorous Italian cultural envoy to the
      coalition, Mario Bondioli-Osio, was giving generously for restoration.

      The beautiful Warka vase, carved in 3000BC, was recovered though
      smashed into 14 pieces. The exquisite Lyre of Ur, the world's most
      ancient musical instrument, was found badly damaged. Clerics in Sadr
      City were ingeniously asked to tell wives to refuse to sleep with
      their husbands if looted objects were not returned, with some success.
      Nothing could be done about the fire-gutted national library and the
      loss of five centuries of Ottoman records (and works by Piccasso and
      Miro). But the message of winning hearts and minds seemed to have got
      through.

      Today the picture is transformed. Donny George fled for his life last
      August after death threats. The national museum is not open but shut.
      Nor is it just shut. Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by
      concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff cannot
      get inside. There is no prospect of reopening.

      Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the
      British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city
      of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a
      150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old
      brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate
      itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill
      sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and
      car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.

      Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan
      al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent
      weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the
      walls. The place is now a ruin.

      Outside the capital some 10,000 sites of incomparable importance to
      the history of western civilisation, barely 20% yet excavated, are
      being looted as systematically as was the museum in 2003. When George
      tried to remove vulnerable carvings from the ancient city of Umma to
      Baghdad, he found gangs of looters already in place with bulldozers,
      dump trucks and AK47s.

      Hussaini showed one site after another lost to archaeology in a
      four-year "looting frenzy". The remains of the 2000BC cities of Isin
      and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a
      desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters.
      Castles, ziggurats, deserted cities, ancient minarets and mosques have
      gone or are going. Hussaini has 11 teams combing the country engaged
      in rescue work, mostly collecting detritus left by looters. His small
      force of site guards is no match for heavily armed looters, able to
      shift objects to eager European and American dealers in days.

      Most ominous is a message reputedly put out from Moqtada al-Sadr's
      office, that while Muslim heritage should be respected, pre-Muslim
      relics were up for grabs. As George said before his flight, his
      successors might be "only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's
      earlier heritage". While Hussaini is clearly devoted to all Iraq's
      history, the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's pre-Muslim Bamiyan
      Buddhas is in every mind.

      Despite Sadr's apparent preference, sectarian militias are pursuing an
      orgy of destruction of Muslim sites. Apart from the high-profile
      bombings of some of the loveliest surviving mosques in the Arab world,
      radical groups opposed to all shrines have begun blasting 10th- and
      11th-century structures, irrespective of Sunni or Shia origin.
      Eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, 10 in Kirkuk and the south in
      the past month alone. The great monument and souk at Kifel, north of
      Najaf - reputedly the tomb of Ezekiel and once guarded by Iraqi Jews
      (mostly driven into exile by the occupation) - have been all but
      destroyed.

      It is abundantly clear that the Americans and British are not
      protecting Iraq's historic sites. All foreign archaeologists have had
      to leave. Troops are doing nothing to prevent the "farming" of known
      antiquities. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention
      that an occupying army should "use all means within its power" to
      guard the cultural heritage of a defeated state.

      Shortly after the invasion, the British minister Tessa Jowell won
      plaudits for "pledging" £5m to protect Iraq's antiquities. I can find
      no one who can tell me where, how or whether this money has been
      spent. It appears to have been pure spin. Only the British Museum and
      the British School of Archaeology in Iraq have kept the flag flying.
      The latter's grant has just been cut, presumably to pay for the
      Olympics binge.

      As long as Britain and America remain in denial over the anarchy they
      have created in Iraq, they clearly feel they must deny its devastating
      side-effects. Two million refugees now camping in Jordan and Syria are
      ignored, since life in Iraq is supposed to be "better than before".
      Likewise dozens of Iraqis working for the British and thus facing
      death threats are denied asylum. To grant it would mean the former
      defence and now home secretary, the bullish John Reid, admitting he
      was wrong. They will die before he does that.

      Though I opposed the invasion I assumed that its outcome would at
      least be a more civilised environment. Yet Iraq's people are being
      murdered in droves for want of order. Authority has collapsed. That
      western civilisation should have been born in so benighted a country
      as Iraq may seem bad luck. But only now is that birth being refused
      all guardianship, in defiance of international law. If this is Tony
      Blair's "values war", then language has lost all meaning. British
      collusion in such destruction is a scandal that will outlive any
      passing conflict. And we had the cheek to call the Taliban vandals.
    • Susan
      All, I am grateful Stan, that you had the courage to send the excellent article which some might find controvertial, inappropriate, or causing waves, I doubt
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 13, 2007
        All,

        I am grateful Stan, that you had the courage to send the excellent
        article which some might find controvertial, inappropriate, or
        causing waves, I doubt any at this wonderful site would find that
        so,,.we who are used to faring high waters.

        I was unaware of many of the current happenings mentioned. Hopefully
        others here and members of the international community will openly
        discuss these very matters which have been going on unchecked for
        centuries. I did not see that article at any of nearly a dozen
        related web groups, and I again applaud you.

        Last month I started an early Social Securities retirement from
        formal work, am now doing more traveling plus working long days as a
        flea market vendor at least a couple of days a week, mainly in N.
        Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, camping without electricity, beyond the
        range of my cell phone. Without a laptop, I am unable to be very
        helpful co-hosting this web site. Stan, I know your free time is also
        very scarce. Members here may not be aware of the dozens of spammers
        who have tried to send garbage onto this site; Stan has removed most
        of these readily, I caught a few since becaming co-host several
        months ago.

        Several of this group are members of PreColumbian Inscriptions, the
        Ancient Vikings in America, and Thor-the-Hunter Ohio Rock web sites.
        Each of those groups and others frequently discuss navigation,
        seafaring, ancient water routes, etc. With so few members and posts
        at this site, I have to assume that perhaps Ancient Waterways Society
        may be a duplication of services or proving complicated to members
        having to click into several sites to keep up with Posts. A few have
        found it time-consuming and confusing reading duplicated web links
        and posts at multiple related sites, trying to keep on-track
        following certain lines of thought.

        So, unless we hear otherwise from other members here....

        Regardless whether we continue formally or not, I will
        forever 'travel' enthusiastically under the philosophy and spirit of
        a global, Ancient Waterways Society. I have used the term loosely at
        least ten or fifteen years, gotten into many discussions at meetings,
        conferences, flea markets, and cafes with interested others who have
        noticed the carved wooden "Ancient Waterways Society" sign in the
        back window of my Ford.

        Good homemade food and an open door policy prevails mid-week at my
        little home overlooking the Wisconsin River. Coming in from the
        elements through the kitchen door, one is greeted with another
        wooden "Ancient Waterways Cafe" with logo of ancient Phoenician-type
        ship. I shall ever remain allied with all of you and others in an
        Ancient Waterways Society if I ever meet any of you here, your home,
        at conferences or symposiums. The 'diffusionist' (and nurse) aspect
        of myself will continue to be 'Without Borders'.

        If this web site is closed, it is my hope others will continue to
        feel affiliated with and carry forward the intent behind our society,
        keep it open to international others, much like the ideas behind the
        letter and spirit of "international waters", to share common ground
        beyond the borders of our understandings and nationalisms. As did
        multitudes of many of the very ancient seafarers and coastal peoples.
        Long before people were divided by continent, nation, ven clan and
        tribal groups prior to many of the schisms and divisions of religion
        and the early historic nation-states.

        What came to my mind reading the article Stan sent this week is that
        ongoing disregard, destruction of artifacts and culture, violence,
        greed, and disregard of others as enemies or aliens often results
        when people fail to consider themselves and others as a cross-
        continental collectivity whose ancestry found common roots, along
        ancient, global waterways.

        Feel free to add your own input in regard to continuing or
        discontinuing this site. Since Stan has been doing the lion's share
        of creating the web site and hosting it, I will leave it to his
        descrition. I have enjoyed the correspondence we have had so far and
        am grateful to Stan for setting up,maintaining this fine web site,
        and he and you for all of your posts. We'd met several years ago at
        an Ancient Earthworks Society on the UW Madison, Wisconsin campus and
        discussed the idea behind an Ancient Waterways Societyociety meeting.
        Unfortunately, most of the people I had initially been affiliated
        either do not own a computer or do not opt to share their work or
        insights through web groups.

        I shall list again my personal web site after my salutation; I have
        used it for at least a decade and pertains to my particular 'neck of
        the woods'. You have all expanded my worldview by sharing links and
        insights in regard to ancient waterways you live near or have fared
        along. Feel free to design your own web link. No one owns the
        Ancient Waterways Society name but hopefully will remain open and
        free-spirited as we continue our investigation of the diffusion of
        people, cultures, and goods through the ancient world.

        Cordially,

        M. Susan English
        http://hometown.aol.com/suzenglish/myhomepage/profile.html
        Stan --- In
        ancient_waterways_society@yahoogroups.com, "minnesotastan"
        <minnesotastan@...> wrote:
        >
        > Posting this runs the risk of introducing politics into this
        website,
        > but perhaps it will also stimulate some posts, without which the
        > Ancient Waterways website may as well be closed.
        >
        >
        > from the U.K. Guardian -
        >
        > In Iraq's four-year looting frenzy, the allies have become the
        vandals
        >
        >
        > British and American collusion in the pillaging of Iraq's heritage
        is
        > a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict
        >
        > Simon Jenkins
        > Friday June 8, 2007
        > The Guardian
        >
        > Fly into the American air base of Tallil outside Nasiriya in central
        > Iraq and the flight path is over the great ziggurat of Ur, reputedly
        > the earliest city on earth. Seen from the base in the desert haze or
        > the sand-filled gloom of dusk, the structure is indistinguishable
        from
        > the mounds of fuel dumps, stores and hangars. Ur is safe within the
        > base compound. But its walls are pockmarked with wartime shrapnel
        and
        > a blockhouse is being built over an adjacent archaeological site.
        When
        > the head of Iraq's supposedly sovereign board of antiquities and
        > heritage, Abbas al-Hussaini, tried to inspect the site recently, the
        > Americans refused him access to his own most important monument.
        >
        > Yesterday Hussaini reported to the British Museum on his struggles
        to
        > protect his work in a state of anarchy. It was a heart breaking
        > presentation. Under Saddam you were likely to be tortured and shot
        if
        > you let someone steal an antiquity; in today's Iraq you are likely
        to
        > be tortured and shot if you don't. The tragic fate of the national
        > museum in Baghdad in April 2003 was as if federal troops had invaded
        > New York city, sacked the police and told the criminal community
        that
        > the Metropolitan was at their disposal. The local tank commander was
        > told specifically not to protect the museum for a full two weeks
        after
        > the invasion. Even the Nazis protected the Louvre.
        >
        > When I visited the museum six months later, its then director, Donny
        > George, proudly showed me the best he was making of a bad job. He
        was
        > about to reopen, albeit with half his most important objects stolen.
        > The pro-war lobby had stopped pretending that the looting was
        nothing
        > to do with the Americans, who were shamefacedly helping retrieve
        > stolen objects under the dynamic US colonel, Michael Bogdanos
        (author
        > of a book on the subject). The vigorous Italian cultural envoy to
        the
        > coalition, Mario Bondioli-Osio, was giving generously for
        restoration.
        >
        > The beautiful Warka vase, carved in 3000BC, was recovered though
        > smashed into 14 pieces. The exquisite Lyre of Ur, the world's most
        > ancient musical instrument, was found badly damaged. Clerics in Sadr
        > City were ingeniously asked to tell wives to refuse to sleep with
        > their husbands if looted objects were not returned, with some
        success.
        > Nothing could be done about the fire-gutted national library and the
        > loss of five centuries of Ottoman records (and works by Piccasso and
        > Miro). But the message of winning hearts and minds seemed to have
        got
        > through.
        >
        > Today the picture is transformed. Donny George fled for his life
        last
        > August after death threats. The national museum is not open but
        shut.
        > Nor is it just shut. Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by
        > concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff
        cannot
        > get inside. There is no prospect of reopening.
        >
        > Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the
        > British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great
        city
        > of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a
        > 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old
        > brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate
        > itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill
        > sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads
        and
        > car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.
        >
        > Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan
        > al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent
        > weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of
        the
        > walls. The place is now a ruin.
        >
        > Outside the capital some 10,000 sites of incomparable importance to
        > the history of western civilisation, barely 20% yet excavated, are
        > being looted as systematically as was the museum in 2003. When
        George
        > tried to remove vulnerable carvings from the ancient city of Umma to
        > Baghdad, he found gangs of looters already in place with bulldozers,
        > dump trucks and AK47s.
        >
        > Hussaini showed one site after another lost to archaeology in a
        > four-year "looting frenzy". The remains of the 2000BC cities of Isin
        > and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced
        by a
        > desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters.
        > Castles, ziggurats, deserted cities, ancient minarets and mosques
        have
        > gone or are going. Hussaini has 11 teams combing the country engaged
        > in rescue work, mostly collecting detritus left by looters. His
        small
        > force of site guards is no match for heavily armed looters, able to
        > shift objects to eager European and American dealers in days.
        >
        > Most ominous is a message reputedly put out from Moqtada al-Sadr's
        > office, that while Muslim heritage should be respected, pre-Muslim
        > relics were up for grabs. As George said before his flight, his
        > successors might be "only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's
        > earlier heritage". While Hussaini is clearly devoted to all Iraq's
        > history, the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's pre-Muslim
        Bamiyan
        > Buddhas is in every mind.
        >
        > Despite Sadr's apparent preference, sectarian militias are pursuing
        an
        > orgy of destruction of Muslim sites. Apart from the high-profile
        > bombings of some of the loveliest surviving mosques in the Arab
        world,
        > radical groups opposed to all shrines have begun blasting 10th- and
        > 11th-century structures, irrespective of Sunni or Shia origin.
        > Eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, 10 in Kirkuk and the south
        in
        > the past month alone. The great monument and souk at Kifel, north of
        > Najaf - reputedly the tomb of Ezekiel and once guarded by Iraqi Jews
        > (mostly driven into exile by the occupation) - have been all but
        > destroyed.
        >
        > It is abundantly clear that the Americans and British are not
        > protecting Iraq's historic sites. All foreign archaeologists have
        had
        > to leave. Troops are doing nothing to prevent the "farming" of known
        > antiquities. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva
        Convention
        > that an occupying army should "use all means within its power" to
        > guard the cultural heritage of a defeated state.
        >
        > Shortly after the invasion, the British minister Tessa Jowell won
        > plaudits for "pledging" £5m to protect Iraq's antiquities. I can
        find
        > no one who can tell me where, how or whether this money has been
        > spent. It appears to have been pure spin. Only the British Museum
        and
        > the British School of Archaeology in Iraq have kept the flag flying.
        > The latter's grant has just been cut, presumably to pay for the
        > Olympics binge.
        >
        > As long as Britain and America remain in denial over the anarchy
        they
        > have created in Iraq, they clearly feel they must deny its
        devastating
        > side-effects. Two million refugees now camping in Jordan and Syria
        are
        > ignored, since life in Iraq is supposed to be "better than before".
        > Likewise dozens of Iraqis working for the British and thus facing
        > death threats are denied asylum. To grant it would mean the former
        > defence and now home secretary, the bullish John Reid, admitting he
        > was wrong. They will die before he does that.
        >
        > Though I opposed the invasion I assumed that its outcome would at
        > least be a more civilised environment. Yet Iraq's people are being
        > murdered in droves for want of order. Authority has collapsed. That
        > western civilisation should have been born in so benighted a country
        > as Iraq may seem bad luck. But only now is that birth being refused
        > all guardianship, in defiance of international law. If this is Tony
        > Blair's "values war", then language has lost all meaning. British
        > collusion in such destruction is a scandal that will outlive any
        > passing conflict. And we had the cheek to call the Taliban vandals.
        >
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