The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Seventy-Five: May 2006





This is the seventy-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.

  • K. Norris, "From Mesopotamia to Metro Detroit: Transplanted Iraqi Christians move forward with a museum celebrating Chaldean culture," in Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2006: "They arrived in Detroit in the early 1900s, drawn by Henry Ford's promise of $5 a day for workers in his auto factory. Today, about 100,000 Chaldeans -- Iraqi Catholics -- live in southeast Michigan in what is considered to be one of the largest concentrations outside the Middle East. Now, the first museum dedicated to Chaldeans is being built in metro Detroit. More than six years in the works, the Chaldean Community Cultural Center in West Bloomfield is a step closer to reality with the completion of the design." "Museum planners had expected to fill the museum with actual artifacts from the archeologically rich homeland. 'We all had family and contacts over there. We thought it would be a breeze,' Antone said. ... Planners of the Chaldean center were advised it would be virtually impossible to obtain artifacts that hadn't been forged or stolen and sold on the black market. Still, the museum will have some authentic items. Some will be loaned from the Detroit Institute of Arts and some from the personal collection of Elsie Peck, an archaeologist who curated the DIA's Mesopotamia exhibit. The items include pottery. Peck connected museum officials with a dealer in London who is supplying the center with some other original artifacts as well." [hmm!]; "Right now, anyone who visits the museum site can see replicas of artifacts that were created by local Chaldean artists. Among them is a miniature of the Ishtar Gate, which served as the entrance to ancient Babylonia."

    Photo 1: "Rosemary Antone of Farmington Hills, the chairperson of the Chaldean Community Cultural Center, holds the schematic design for the museum. Antone came to the United States from Iraq when she was a girl. (Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press)"

    Photo 2: [no caption; replica of a detail of the Ishtar Gate at Babylon]



  • F. Deblauwe, "The State of Preservation of the Neo-Assyrian Reliefs at Khinnis/Bavian" (IW&A Documents, 9), in The Iraq War & Archaeology (US and Austria), May 14, 2006: "The northern Iraqi archaeological site usually called Bavian forms the source of a Neo-Assyrian canal/aquaduct system built for Nineveh by Sennacherib (704-681 BC).  Bavian is the name of a nearby town; the site is better named after the closer village of Khinnis* and is situated about 50 km northeast of Nineveh.  The place is decorated—or should I say monumentalized—with reliefs on the cliffs where the Gomel river** passes through a gorge.  From the cuneiform inscriptions accompanying the reliefs we learn that the construction of the canal was finished in 690 BC.  Sennacherib also boasted about his thorough destruction of Babylon (in 689 BC) after a rebellion..." "One of the participants, Firas Jatou, alerted Dr. McGuire Gibson ... about problems with the site.  The photos he made during his April 8 visit I include on the left in the illustration section below.  On the right side are then shown old pictures, paired as much as possible with Jatou's photos. The large, main relief cut out of the cliff consists of king Sennacherib ([photo] 3) shown twice, offering before the gods Ashur and Enlil. The big holes are, as you see in the century-and-a-half-old drawing in [ill. 4], not of recent date.  However, the damage to the left-side king Sennacherib of the main relief is very recent: the area around his nose has been erased ..." "Anyway, the SBAH is looking into the matter right now and will hopefully be able to convince the local authorities of more responsible methods: fencing, awnings, some order and organization perhaps. Maybe some of the damage already done can be repaired.  After all, an attractive tourist spot as well as invaluable heritage site should be preserved as well as possible, that much all should be able to agree upon." [see also Jones May 9 and 10, and Vergano May 14]

    Photo 1: "Main relief in its landscape setting (taken by Firas Jatou, April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"

    Photo 2: "The right-side 3/4 of the main relief when one climbs up to it; the people provide a good relative indication of the proportions (April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"

    Photo 3: "The left 1/4 of the main relief we weren't able to see in [photo] 2: king Sennacherib; there is recent damage around the nose (taken by Firas Jatou, April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"

    Ill. 4: "The main relief as interpreted by the excavator of Nimrud and Nineveh (drawn by Austen Henry Layard, mid-19th cent.; from Layard 1853; © New York Public Library)"

    Photo 5: "A niche with remnants of cuneiform inscriptions (taken by Firas Jatou, April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"

    Photo 6: "Partial view of the top of a huge block that was hewed from the cliff in antiquity but left in the river itself, showing a lamassu and a bearded figure in the lower register (April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"

    Photo 7: "The block in the river, showing its location in relation to the main relief (figs. 1-3) above it (taken by Edgar T.A. Wigram, very beginning of the 20th cent.; from Wigram 1922; © AINA)"

    Photo 8: "Remains of inscriptions in brittle, fragile state; bullet impact visible (unclear where exactly this photo was taken) (April 2006; © Firas Jatou)"
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  • I. Villelabeitia, "British 'Queen of Iraq' rests in Baghdad cemetery," in Yahoo! News, online, May 11, 2006: "'There she is,' Ali Mansur says pointing to a sandstone gravestone. 'I take care of her. But nobody visits.' Gertrude Bell, a British traveller, writer and linguist, was one of the most powerful women of the 1920s, an adviser to empire builders and confidante to kings." "When she was buried, thousands thronged the streets to watch her casket pass as it headed towards the British cemetery in Baghdad's Bab al-Sharji district. Mansur, who lives with his wife in a shack inside the cemetery, said a local church pays him $3 a month to clear weeds from Bell's grave. The tomb itself was cleaned and restored by a well-wisher last year and, before the war, foreign journalists used to stop by. Now, Mansur said, they are too afraid of getting killed or kidnapped to venture here." [she also was the founder of the National Museum in Baghdad]

    Photo: "Reuters - Thu May 11, 4:20 AM ET - The tomb of Gertrude Bell, an 'oriental secretary' to British governments is seen in Iraq April 30, 2006. Reuters/Ali Jasim"

  • H. Eakin, "Archaeologists Debate Whether to Ignore the Pasts of Relics," in The New York Times, May 2, 2006: "Inscribed on Sumerian clay tablets more than 4,000 years ago, the Code of Ur-Nammu may be the earliest known recorded set of laws in the world: dozens of rules written in cuneiform about commerce and taxes, family law and inheritance. But many scholars won't go near the one largely intact version of the code, and the top American journal of cuneiform research won't publish articles about it. The reason? The tablet was bought by a private Norwegian collector on the open market and does not come from a documented, scientific excavation. According to the ethics policies of the leading associations for antiquities scholars, that means it is off limits. As scholars grapple with the reality that a growing number of important works — like the Ur-Nammu tablet and the recently unveiled Gospel of Judas — lack a clear provenance, those ethics policies are the focus of heated debate. On one side are archaeologists and other experts who say that most objects without a clear record of ownership or site of origin were looted, and that the publication of such material aggrandizes collectors and encourages the illicit trade. On the other side are those who argue that ignoring such works may be even more damaging to scholarship than the destruction caused by looting. Lending momentum to the debate is growing evidence that, amid the havoc of the American invasion of Iraq, Iraqi sites have been looted on an industrial scale. Many experts worry that the market will be flooded by vast numbers of unprovenanced cuneiform tablets and other objects: illicit finds that, in theory, should not be published. ...  In recent days more than 100 scholars in the United States and Europe have signed a controversial statement asserting that the publishing restrictions are forcing them to 'close their eyes to important information.' The statement was drafted by Lawrence E. Stager, an archaeologist at Harvard University, and has been posted on the Web site of Biblical Archaeology Review, a journal that does not have restrictions on unprovenanced works." [what is more, BAR has been actively involved in publishing high-profile unprovenanced artefacts, e.g., the controversial so-called James ossuary with a most-likely forged inscription]; "... looted objects, especially inscriptions, often have much of scholarly importance to impart.' At issue are the publication rules of the two leading professional associations for scholars of antiquity, the Archaeological Institute of America and the American Schools of Oriental Research, ...  Some museum directors, facing demands from Italy and other countries for the return of objects that may have been looted, have also seized on the publishing debate to defend collecting and displaying works that do not have a complete provenance."

  • "Yet representatives of both associations say the statement [Stager] signed with other scholars mischaracterized their rules. 'It's full of inaccuracy,' said Jane Waldbaum, president of the [AIA], pointing out that the institute's policy, which dates from the 1970's, simply bans its own journals from being the first to publish unprovenanced works." [see also the more formal response]; "According to the group's 1995 ethics policy, 'ASOR publications and its annual meeting will not be used for presentations of illicit material.' But Mr. Vaughn said that the policy has some flexibility, and that 'many of the things' that Mr. Stager 'is encouraging colleagues to consider are already being done.' Many scholars stress that no single policy fits all unprovenanced objects. There is a huge difference between, say, looted sculptures, which may be impossible to identify with a specific historical setting, and objects bearing inscriptions or texts, which can yield much information even when their origins are unknown. And some unprovenanced works can easily be faked while others cannot. There is also a broad divide between archaeologists, who generally study material from documented sites and rely on the good graces of host countries with strict prohibitions against the antiquities trade, and scholars of ancient texts, who often do not work in the field and may have no qualms about drawing on unprovenanced objects in their research. Adding complexity to the debate, Mr. Stager is a field archaeologist who directs a site in Israel that has been supported by two well-known antiquities collectors, Shelby White [also a New York Times contributor...] and her husband, Leon Levy, who died in 2003. The Shelby White-Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications at Harvard, of which Mr. Stager is a board member, finances articles and books about legitimate, scientific digs. Yet Ms. White's own collecting is the focus of an Italian investigation into the illicit antiquities trade."

    "Even supporters of the two associations' current rules acknowledge that new approaches are needed to address the recent plunder in Iraq and other regions. ...  As a compromise, [ASOR] has adopted a special policy allowing for publication of unprovenanced cuneiform texts if permission is first obtained from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage. Last year the [AIA] also revised its policy to allow its journals to be the first to publish unprovenanced objects and to review museum shows of such items if part of the purpose is to call attention to the looting issue. But it is unclear how well such changes will work in practice. Members of both associations acknowledge privately that the ethics policies can encourage a two-faced system whereby scholars simply go to nonassociation journals and museum publications to publish unprovenanced works." [instead of supporting this ill-advised petition, I would like to call one more time to add your signature to the "Statement read at the Workshop 'The Threat to Iraq’s Cultural Heritage – Current Status and Future Prospects' (July 23, 2005)"]


Photo: "Ali Jarekji/Reuters - Jordanian officials seized these cuneiform tablets from smugglers."


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).