The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Twenty-Five: First 1/2 of April 2004





This is the twenty-fifth archive of the reviewed articles of The Iraq War & Archaeology web site.


Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D.




The articles and other information are listed chronologically, most recent first.
Almost all are accessible for free (or after a free registration) on the internet.  Each time, I try to draw attention to the most relevant tidbits of information, esp. things that were not mentioned before; occasionally, I provide some comment.  The usual warning applies: many links become defective with time.  Inclusion in the list does not in any way mean that I necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in an article.  But for a few exceptions, the occasional photos and figures accompanying reviewed articles are just hotlinked images on other web sites, in other words: do not download them or request permission to publish them from me, for I do not own the copyright to them in any way!  Please do contact the rightful owners if you would like to use them for publication purposes. Finally, for the sake of convenience, all articles and so on are assumed to have been published on US web sites unless indicated otherwise.

"This article pertains to the Polish stabilization zone in Iraq, located at the remains of ancient Babylon.  One of the world’s most important archaeological sites, Babylon was to host an excavation project coordinated by Polish archaeologists and sponsored by the United States. In times of war and occupation, the Hague Convention of 1954 addresses the protection of artifacts and archaeological sites.  Under the convention, excavations in an occupied nation are not permitted.  Though the US did not sign this agreement, it still follows these rules. As a consequence, American archaeologists have not been allowed to excavate at Babylon.  Instead, the US has attempted to subvert these rules, allowing excavation work by Polish archaeologists.  Coalition Provisional Authority’s South East Region head Michael Gfoeller sent an official letter to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in July 2003 offering to sponsor a project from the CPA’s budget. The US offered $100,000 for equipment and salaries for local workers and Iraqi archaeologists, with the condition that the funding must be applied before the end of 2003.  This stipulation added urgency to approving and beginning the project.  Excavations were to be done in three areas: ancient Babylon, Kisz [sic; Kish] and Al Kifl. In response, the Polish government sent an official letter asking about the political situation and the legality of the project. The situation was that Japan was already working in Kisz, in Al Kifl no archaeological intervention was necessary at this site, just conservation work. Therefore Babylon was the only site considered for the project. The Polish Government chose Rafal Kolinski from the Prehistory Institute in Poznan, Poland to coordinate and lead the excavation.  Five Iraqi archaeologists were also chosen to work on the site.  Kolinski’s project was approved by Iraqi political officials on October 23, 2003.  (It was later discovered that the Iraqi officials had signed under coercion from the Americans.  Adding to suspicions, the chief Iraqi signatory died in a car accident a few days later.)  Because of the circumstances there were many negative opinions regarding the Polish archaeological mission.  After personnel changes in the CPA, a press conference, and Michael Gfoeller’s interview concerning the Polish mission, the Americans decided not to sponsor the Polish excavations.  Rather, the project would be limited to documentation, condition assessment and protection of the Babylon site.  These project changes were accepted by the Iraqi officials but not by the Americans, who ultimately rejected the project altogether. Unfortunately, the Polish archaeological mission failed.  However, the Polish Archeologists were fortunate not to have begun their work. The real question is to understand who is responsible for this situation." [the "chief Iraqi signatory" who "died in a car accident a few days later" would be Rabi'a el-Qaisi, see Russell November 6, 2003; there was nothing suspicious about that accident however, Krzemińska is wrong about that]

Photo: "This large cylindrical vessel made of alabaster displays cultic and daily life scenes. It was discovered in Warka (ancient Uruk) and dates to 3000 B.C. Stolen in April 2003 from the Iraqi National Museum, the vessel was recovered, in pieces, in June." [Warka Vase]

  • N. Feeney and J. Simmons, "The Secret of Nimrud. A Story Without Words," in Iraq Museum International, online, [April 10, 2004]: the Baghdad Museum Project has morphed into Iraq Museum International; this feature consists of 418 high-resolution photos by Noreen Feeney; I'm afraid that the photos—evocative as they are—do need some explanation hence my attempt below to provide some context and point out a few interesting slides (thanks to Chuck Jones and Sarah Collins for some info)
    1. entering the vaults in question in the Central Bank in Baghdad on June 5, 2003, for the 1st time since the fall of Baghdad and the looting (nos. 1-22)
      1. opening the vaults (nos. 1-8)
      2. general condition of the trunks (nos. 9-22)
        • no. 14 center: National Museum then-director Dr. Nawala el-Mutawalli
    2. opening of trunks on the spot (photos 23-200)
      1. Iraqi Royal Family trinkets (mid-20th century AD)(nos. 23-86)
        • nos. 50, 53, 70: water damage
        • no. 84: group shot of some of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage staff
      2. artifacts from the Royal Tombs of Ur (Early Sumerian)(nos. 87-124 and 150-204 and photos 1-8)
        • no. 93 = photo 1: gold and lapis lazuli jewelry, displayed on a painted plaster model
        • no. 100 = photo 2: the original gold-and-lapis-lazuli bull's head decoration of one of the lyres
        • no. 120 and 122 = photos 3-4: the gold helmet of Meskalamdug
        • no. 150 = photo 5: gold dagger with lapis lazuli handle
        • no. 173 = photo 6: opened trunk with panels with jewelry wrapped in plastic; Dr. Nawala el-Mutawalli and US military look on
        • no. 179 = photo 7: jewelry made of mother of pearl, shells, ivory
        • no. 185 = photo 8: jewelry made of gold and lapis lazuli
      3. Neo-Assyrian Treasure of Nimrud with a few Islamic items mixed in (nos. 125-149 and photo 9)
        • no. 130 = photo 9: gold bracelets inlaid with lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones
    3. moving some artifacts around in the Central Bank
      1. transporting wet panels with artifacts (see under 2.b.) to another vault to dry (nos. 204-224 and photos 10-11)
        • no. 217 = photo 10: above-ground structures in ruins
        • no. 224 = photo 11: new, drier vault
      1. repackaging and transporting some trunks to another vault (nos. 225-233)
      2. opening the above trunks: Neo-Assyrian Treasure of Nimrud (nos. 234-305 and photos 12-14)
        • no. 252 = photo 12: gold and glass vessels, gold jewelry, ...
        • no. 260 = photo 13: golden crown; to the right of Dr. el-Mutawalli and her female colleague stands Pietro Cordone, then Sr. Cultural Adviser to the CPA
        • no. 279 = photo 14: gold jewelry and vessels
    4. the exhibition in the National Museum on July 3, 2003 (nos. 306-418 and photos 15-19)
      1. no. 308 = photo 15: bodyguard (?), CPA chief Paul Bremer and Dr. el-Mutawalli, military personnel, media spotlights
      2. no. 316 = photo 16: the Neo-Assyrian hall is teeming with media and dignitaries
      3. no. 324 = photo 17: Bremer and the splendid Neo-Assyrian golden crown from Nimrud
      4. no. 358 = photo 18: Neo-Assyrian gold vessel from Nimrud
      5. no. 394 = photo 19: gold ring with relief and inlay decoration (Nimrud)

All photos: I have linked to the smaller-size medium-resolution versions of the better-quality originals to keep loading times reasonable; you can change the entry web page URL easily to reflect the number of the high-resolution image page you're looking for

Photo 1: [no. 93; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 2: [no. 100; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 3: [no. 120; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 4: [no. 122; see above under 2.b.; happiness all around on finding the treasures intact]

Photo 5: [no. 150; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 6: [no. 173; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 7: [no. 179; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 8: [no. 185; see above under 2.b.]

Photo 9: [no. 130; see above under 2.c.]

Photo 10: [no. 217; see above under 3.a.]

Photo 11: [no. 224; see above under 3.a.]

Photo 12: [no. 252; see above under 3.c.]

Photo 13: [no. 260; see above under 3.c.]

Photo 14: [no. 279; see above under 3.c.]

Photo 15: [no. 308; see above under 4.a.]

Photo 16: [no. 316; see above under 4.b.]

Photo 17: [no. 324; see above under 4.c.]

Photo 18: [no. 358; see above under 4.d.]

Photo 19: [no. 394; see above under 4.e.]
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  • L. Baker, "World heritage also under assault in Iraq. Historians bemoan looting in 'cradle of civilization,'" in MSNBC, April 8, 2004: "Before archaeologists can properly identify and excavate the sites, scattered across the river valley south of Babylon, the looters have already torn apart ancient temples, palaces and tombs that hold clues to the foundations of civilisation. And since archaeologists don't know precisely what was there, no one will likely ever know what's missing, meaning robbers are stealing history even before it's been discovered. 'It is a crime, it is a crime against humanity,' said Abdul Amir Hamdani, director of antiquities for Iraq's Dhi Qar province, as he inspected fresh looting at Dubrum, an ancient Sumerian settlement near the village of Dhahir." "Investigators describe a chain starting with looters who steal to order, deliver artefacts to local merchants, who smuggle them out of Iraq to dealers connected to wealthy collectors in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United States. The most sought-after items include cuneiform tablets ... cylinder seals, which were used to identify or mark ancient documents, intricate figurines and items of bronze jewellery. Hamdani says looters -- generally penniless villagers familiar with the locations of the sites -- get as little as $13 for a whole cuneiform tablet." "... the Carabinieri have concentrated on securing the most important areas and are trying to patrol as many others as possible. At the same time, they are training Iraqis to protect major sites and collect information on looting habits." "Increasingly looters work at night. Sometimes they raid sites just beyond the Italians' strictly defined area of responsibility, betting they won't stray out of the zone. In the eight months since the Italian specialised unit began its operations, only 47 robbers have been caught, although precious objects have also been rescued." "Bondioli-Osio has been frustrated by the lack of attention paid to the problem with the U.S.-led coalition having to focus instead on combating the year-long insurgency. With more funding and training, he says, a stop could be put to the thieving. Iraqis need to be taught how to police ancient sites, they need weapons and communications equipment. A recent tightening of Iraq's borders was a positive step, he said."
Photo: "Luke Baker / Reuters - An Italian soldier looks into a hole dug by thieves scavenging Dubrum, an ancient Sumerian settlement near the village of Dhahi[r]. Across southern Iraq, often in the dead of night, tomb raiders and temple thieves are systematically looting ancient treasures that have lain undiscovered for thousands of years."

  • M. Bailey, "The steady deterioration of Iraq’s great Nimrud ivories. The antiquities, dating from the eighth and ninth centuries BC, were swamped by sewage-infected water last year," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [April 8, 2004]: "At the time of the first Gulf War in 1990 they were moved from the National Museum in Baghdad to the central bank, along with the Nimrud Gold, for their protection. After the vaults were opened last June [2003], the tin trunk containing the boxed ivories was immediately moved to a drier room within the underground complex. Baghdad museum staff then spent several days cleaning and air-drying the ivories. However, the ivories were only superficially dried before they were repacked in fresh cardboard boxes. Unfortunately, environmental conditions in the vaults remain poor, since it is cold in winter and hot in summer. It also still a damp environment. The ivories are, therefore, drying extremely slowly, a process which, from a conservation point of view, ought to have been completed many months ago because damp conditions often lead to the growth of mould. Since last June, the ivories have been inspected only twice, most recently in December. These visits have lasted only a couple of hours, which has enabled a proper examination of just part of the collection. ... Signs of mould were detected in December. This needs to be treated promptly, and it could result in some permanent staining. The ivories are also fragmenting as they dry out. In some cases, this is along old break lines, where they were consolidated with PVA glue in the 1950s, but there may well be new cracks and splits. ... Conservators would normally want to keep these fragile objects in a controlled environment, but Baghdad’s erratic electricity supply means that this is not necessarily the best option, unless an emergency generator is available. The overwhelming consideration is security, and there is little doubt that the central bank vault is among the most secure in the city. Another option would be to move the ivories abroad, ... This course of action would need to be approved by the Iraqi authorities, but in the present circumstances the idea would be controversial."
Photo: [not "Hallowan" but "Mallowan"; 3-31-05: old hyperlinked photo on the magazine's web site has been exchanged for a new one, hence the "Hallowan" comment is no longer relevant]

  • C. Tiggeloven, "Iraakse boeken ontdooid," in Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (the Netherlands), with online audio, April 5, 2004: interview with René Teygeler [also spelled "Teijgeler"] who in late August 2004 succeeded Dr. Zainab Bahrani in the renamed and re-assigned position of Acting Senior Consultant for Culture with the Iraqi Reconstruction Management Office of the Embassy of the United States; later in April, he was to leave for Baghdad for the CIMIC Group North (CIMIC = Civil and Military Cooperation) which specializes in reconstruction work in NATO peace operation areas; they hire specialists according to specific needs, e.g., conservation of books, and give these civilians a short military training; the experts also receive a military rank so that they can operate within the system; they are to prepare and start initial work awaiting the arrival of NGOs as soon as the security situation is under control; Teygeler, an expert in book conservation, explains the condition of the salvaged National Archive books and the technical challenges involved in thawing them from their frozen state in which they were put immediately after water damage due to the fire in April 2003; he's over there to advise them, to teach them so they can do it themselves


Photo: [no caption; an ancient Koran manuscript?]
  • N. Banerjee and M. Garen, "Saving Iraq's Archaeological Past From Thieves Remains an Uphill Battle," in The New York Times, April 4, 2004: "Al Dhaara, Iraq [el-Dhaara is probably the same site as Dhahir] — In the desert about three hours south of Baghdad, Abdul-Amir Hamdani stood at the edge of a grave that until a few weeks ago had been covered for 5,000 years. Jewelry, engraved seals and small statues that had been discovered inside had by now all disappeared. ... 'When you come here at night, it looks like a city, there are so many lights,' Hamdani said, looking out over the arid scrubland where thieves swarm after dark. On this bright day, the looters were gone." "'We have 800 sites around Nasiriya alone, and one million thieves,' Hamdani said hyperbolically. 'I am ready to work with the Devil in order to protect these sites.'" "Groups of 40 to 50 thieves who have been working Babylonian sites south of Baghdad now have automatic rifles, sport utility vehicles and the sense of impunity to wave at a helicopter hovering above them, said John Russell, who was on the trip and who is the occupation authority's deputy senior adviser for culture. Only a tiny fraction of Iraq's sites have been explored so far by archaeologists, and it is almost impossible to ascertain how many objects may have been lost or to determine their significance. ... The occupation military has periodically beaten back looters. But the Italians are the only ones who have made a sustained effort to halt the looting. ... The Carabinieri have made a detailed map of local sites, with aerial pictures of the extensive damage done by looting. They have arrested dozens of people. They have returned more than 400 objects to the Iraqi board of antiquities and cataloged them, in case they ever appear on the international art market." [makes sense considering the lack of security in Iraq, I guess you can't be too careful]; "... a program to train and equip about 1,750 security guards to patrol all of Iraq's sites. At present, about 310 guards have been trained, but they still lack everything from ammunition to radios to cars. Regular Iraqi police officers, and those who protect more tangible resources like banks and oil refineries, had such essential equipment by the end of 2003. The Packard Humanities Institute, an American foundation, is giving $750,000 to outfit the archaeological site guards, and the American-led occupation authority responsible for south-central Iraq had earmarked $1 million for the protection of the country's antiquities, Russell said." "One recent morning, the Carabinieri mustered a convoy of Portuguese,  Romanian and Italian soldiers and two cars of Iraqi police officers to patrol the northwest of the province. This day, the region was quiet. The Carabinieri and Mr. Hamdani then decided to push into Al Dhaara in the neighboring province of Qadisiya. Increased  policing in Dhi Qar has driven looters into surrounding regions where  sites  are not patrolled. ... Suddenly, on the edge of one site, Mr. Hamdani spotted a few looters running off  the  mounds. ... The three looters had escaped toward a lush green canal. Faras Adhab, a border guard, ... told them that the looters come at night, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., 20 of them at a time, in two pickups."




Photo 1: "Joao Silva for The New York Times.  A watchtower helps in spotting looters who steal tablets and other relics of Iraq's archaeological patrimony." [this is probably at Telloh, not el-Dhaara]

Photo 2: "Joao Silva for The New York Times.  A local Iraqi guarded the archaeological site of Telloh, 40 miles north of Nasiriya, between the Tigris and Euphrates, which held the remains of the ancient Sumerian city of Lagash." [this is not el-Dhaara; remains of excavated buildings]
  • A. Lawler, "The Treasure Hunter. John Russell is a real-life Indiana Jones, out to protect Iraq's ancient artifacts from looters," in The Boston Globe, April 4, 2004: "Thanks to his efforts, the massive stone friezes of Assyrian warriors and kings at Nineveh are now protected from robbers and the elements by guards and corrugated-metal awnings.  Russell raised $17,000 last year for this initiative before traveling to Iraq. He toted the cash around Baghdad for a month and then made an unescorted trip through the dangerous Sunni triangle from Baghdad to Mosul, across the river from the ancient city of Nineveh, where he used the money to engineer the safeguards. His reward came in late February, when photos showing the newly secured site arrived ... 'The pictures choked me up,' he says. 'I've longed for 14 years to see that view.' Such emotion is not unusual for Russell. A year ago, distraught over the US failure to control looting at Baghdad's famed Iraq Museum as well as at libraries and universities during the takeover of the Iraqi capital, he teared up during media interviews. 'I was the weeping archeologist,' he says without apology. ... With his worn blue blazer, thick glasses, and slight figure, he seems more Woody Allen than Harrison Ford."

"Though his feelings about last year's US invasion of Iraq were mixed, he jumped at the opportunity to fix the damage from both the war and Hussein's neglect, isolation, and oppression. It is a job other American archeologists, reluctant to partner with the US government and loathe to take time from their research, shied away from and for which Russell is especially well suited. Much of his day-to-day work in Iraq is bureaucratic drudgery, such as negotiating contracts to revamp the devastated national museum. But by the time he leaves this month, Russell intends to have the museum ready to reopen, ... Asked how he feels about working for the US government, he retorts: 'I'm working for the Iraqi government -- that's why I took this job.'" "... some 13,000 items that vanished [from the National Museum] in the days immediately following the American assault on Baghdad remain missing. 'It is fair to say the US military could have done more,' he says, 'but I can't pretend to know what should have been done.'" "That optimism is tempered by the lower priority given cultural heritage in an often chaotic country whose basic infrastructure and evolving government need urgent attention. And violence is ever-present. Museum staff members have been killed or injured by gunfire or in the free-for-all of Iraq's roads. 'Anytime you go out,' he says, 'you could get killed.'" [the more reason for Russell to return to the US soon: he has definitely done his share]


Photo: "John Russell is a real-life Indiana Jones, out to protect Iraq's ancient artifacts from looters. (Photo / Benedicte Kurzen)" [taken inside the National Museum]
  • M. Garen, "Protecting Iraq's Antiquities," in The New York Times, online with online video, April 4, 2004: Dr. John Russell and Mario Bondioli-Osio visit Tell el-Lahm, an impressive Early Sumerian site in the south; emergency salvage of disturbed graves which are then covered back up; 40-50 new holes observed by the Carabinieri a few weeks ago; from the air you can really see the devastating extent of the looting; tell towers 30-40 feet above the plain [see also Gray August 17, 2004]

Photo: "Mario Bondioli-Osio, a former Italian ambassador who is the senior adviser for culture in Baghdad, examines a child burial jar at the looted site of Tell Laham.  Micah Garen for The New York Times"

  • Photo: "Thu Apr 1,11:50 AM ET   -    Donny George Youkhana, director of Iraq (news -web sites)'s National Museum, right, shares a laugh with Prof. Ken Matsumoto of Institute for Cultural Studies of Ancient Iraq at Japan's Kokushikan University during a symposium in Tokyo titled 'What Happened to the Iraqi National Museum in April 2003' Thursday, April 1, 2004. George is currently in Japan, one of many nations that has pledged to help Iraq recover and preserve its treasures. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)" [Yahoo! News Photos]




This site is edited by Belgian archaeologist Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D., living in Streamwood, Illinois (USA), who is affiliated with Archaeos, Inc., and a research associate of the University of Vienna (Austria).