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

This is the twenty-third 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.

  • A. Maglio, "Saving a Patrimony of All Humankind. Italian Professor Giovanni Curatola Attempts to Safeguard Iraqi Treasures Amidst Chaos," in Tandem (Canada), March 14, 2004: interesting interview: "Giovanni Curatola, professor of Archaeology and History of Muslim Art at the University of Udine, had been sent to Baghdad by Italy's Foreign Ministry as an aide to Ambassador Mario Bondioli Osio, ..." "Don't imagine huge bureaucracies, though: ... the Ambassador is assisted by me, three more Italians and an American." [that American would be Dr. John Russell]; "There's huge work to do, and we are doing it by working tirelessly.' What have you done to date? 'Over four months we catalogued about 10,000 sites of great archaeological value. That's just a tiny fraction, because the sites are estimated to be about 100,000." [what exactly does he mean by "cataloguing"?  the State Board of antiquities and Heritage has an inventory of sites of about that magnitude, maybe he means that this information was formalized and entered in a computer database?]; "After that, restoration will begin.' This is a job for Italians... 'Yes, it is. We have the expertise, the know-how. We also have the sensitivity required, and the stubbornness. The Americans handle the money, but we draw the projects. This $2.5-million project was advocated for by Ambassador Bondioli Osio, who managed to convince Paul Bremer to accept it.' What sort of a relationship do you entertain with U.S. officials? 'A very good one. Bremer is a very smart man, and he's betting his political future in Iraq." "Our work cannot be limited to identifying and protecting archaeological sites...'
    What else should it include? 'Giving back to these people the awareness of living in a land that is truly a patrimony of humankind.'" "Berlusconi embodies the mistake of Western civilization, which thinks of itself as the only tree rooted in the 'Land Between Two Rivers'. That's wrong: the same roots sprouted many branches, belonging to both Western and Eastern civilizations, and through the course of the centuries they intertwined, clashed, hated and loved, but could never ignore one another, or do without one another. Maybe Berlusconi does not know this, but he's not alone: too many Westerners share his ignorance. ... At one point in time, the Western world decided to bring his civilization to the East: it thus revealed a dangerous attitude of cultural superiority and an abysmal ignorance of the East. Westerners ignored that the East cannot be separated from its culture, including its mysticism.' ... This is where one must begin to understand Arabs. I strive to do so, even though this sometimes turns embarrassing: often, Iraqis coming to the Ministry ask to confer with me 'and not with the American', despite the fact that my U.S. colleague is a person of the first order. It's not a matter of choosing between him and me, but rather between we Italians, who respectfully and humbly recognize the fatigue of these dictatorship- and war-weary people, and the Americans, who often support their opinions with arrogance." [see also Qui.Uniud. E-magazine dell'Università degli Studi di Udine June 3, 2005]

Photo: [no caption; Prof. Curatola]
"'They belong in the country of origin,' says Lucille Roussin. A professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, with a doctorate in art history and archeology, she believes that items outside their context are  like orphans. 'We'll never be able to find out more about the object. If it had been found in a palace, a dwelling, or a religious structure, you would have the other things found with it, which would give you an understanding of who made it, why, what it meant to society, and how it was used.' Not everyone agrees. 'The only problem with that argument is that the archeologists, by creating the dig, have destroyed the context already,' observes Peter Marzio, director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston." [come on! archaeologists destroy the context, yes, but also record it]; "'If you believe in the family of man, you want to take objects from different times and spaces, and you want to compare them so that you begin to have an idea of what it means to be a human being." "'There are plenty of ancient objects from all over the world that are already in museums,' says Roussin. 'I think the best answer would be international cooperation in long-term traveling exhibits; objects come for six or eight months, and then go back to the country of origin.'" "Marzio would like to believe that the world's antiquities are rich and diverse enough that museums and archeological sites can coexist. He envisions a modified version of the old 'one for you, one for me' rule. We can have 'legitimate trade, protection and help for the source countries, transparency in operations, and complete publication of objects that enter collections,' he says. Roussin agrees that this idea has some merit, if the institution sponsoring the excavation agrees to the host country's selection of objects. 'People say, let the duplicates go on the market - well, those aren't the objects the museums and dealers want."
  • M. Kennedy, "4,000-Year-Old Goddess Unveiled," in The Guardian (UK), March 9, 2004: "She is made from clay mixed with straw, and was originally brilliantly painted. Although the image has never been on public display, a photograph was published in the 1920s, when an American academic suggested she could have been a brothel sign from ancient Baghdad. Yesterday, curator Irving Finkel said the brothel idea was a red herring, since the work was costly and of the highest craftsmanship." "The museum tried to acquire the piece in 1933 and again in the 1970s. It finally bought it from a Japanese dealer with heritage lottery funds and grants from the Art Fund, the museum's friends and other charities."
Photo: "A curator [Dr. Dominique Collon] examines the Queen of the Night. (Photo: Frank Baron)"

  • "Ancient Iraqi Relief Goes on Tour," in BBC News (UK), March 8, 2004: "A 4,000-year-old Iraqi relief of a Babylonian goddess acquired by the British Museum is to go on loan at weekends to museums across the UK. The short-loan tour of cities including Glasgow, Sunderland and Leicester is the first of its kind by the museum. The relief of a naked woman was bought for £1.5m [$2.8 million] from a private collector and dates between 1800 and 1750 BC. A spokeswoman said the museum also hoped to loan the work to Iraq but much depended on the security situation." "The museum's assistant keeper Dominique Coolon said: 'She's very much a goddess of the night. She is alluring and curvaceous and would have been painted dark red against a black background.' The Queen of the Night is one of only two major works of art from the reign of the Old Babylonian King Hummurabi, ..." "She will then be on loan for longer periods at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales in Cardiff and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery."

Photo: "The Queen of the Night has never been seen in Iraq"

  • L. Baker, "Expert Says Iraq Could Rewrite Archaeology Books," in Reuters (UK), March 4, 2004: "As security improves to allow excavation, evidence may emerge that advanced societies existed in the area much earlier than previously thought, said Dr John Russell, professor of  archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. 'A decade of research in Iraq could rewrite the books of archaeology, no question,' Russell, who is currently serving as a senior adviser to Iraq's ministry of culture, told Reuters on  Thursday at the opening of new conservation and restoration laboratory at Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad." [presumably the one from Italy, see Yahoo! Italia Notizie March 1]; "Beyond those widely known sites, there are scores of other, lesser known settlements that are steadily being excavated and perhaps dozens more that have yet to be discovered. But the big hurdle is security. Almost a year after Saddam  Hussein was overthrown, many areas remain unsafe and armed looters are a common enemy, particularly at remote sites." "... investigators are working through the courts to try to recover items taken to Switzerland, the United States and Britain. But Russell believes most of the outstanding artifacts are still in Iraq, and says the recovery rate for those stolen, at  around 25 percent, is far better than it might have been. He hopes the museum, which has been extensively renovated, will re-open in the next couple of months if security permits, ..." [this surely is a very optimistic estimate...]

Photo: "Iraq, torn apart by years of war and sanctions, remains so rich in hidden ancient wonders that a leading expert believes the world's archaeology books will have to be rewritten over the next decade. As security improves to allow excavation, evidence may emerge that advanced societies existed in the area much earlier than previously thought, said Dr John Russell, professor of archaeology at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. The 5,000-year-old 'Sumerian Mona Lisa' or the Lady of Warka, is displayed at the Baghdad Museum after its recovery Sept. 23, 2003. Photo by Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters"

Photo: "Beziehung wieder aufgenommen: Irakische Wissenschaftler zu Besuch an deutschen Universitäten  (Foto: Zensen)" [relations are restored: Iraqi scientists visit German universities]
  • Kh. Dalal, "Attempt to Smuggle Iraqi Artefacts Foiled," in Jordan Times (Jordan), March 3, 2004: "'The artefacts were confiscated at the border checkpoint of Ramtha ... hidden in a secret compartment in the smuggler's car, were sent to the Antiquities Department to be examined for authenticity, ... several Sumerian sculptures, statuettes and busts, historical metal coins, pottery and bronze plates and glassware." "Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime ... Jordanian customs officials have handled more than 120 smuggling cases ..."

Photo: "Iraqi artefact seized at border (Petra photo)"

  • "Iraq: recuperati reperti culturali," in Yahoo! Italia Notizie (Italy), online, March 1, 2004: Minister of Culture Giuliani Urbano said in the margin of a ceremony for the departure of equipment to fix up the National Museum in Baghdad that the carabinieri in Iraq have up to now recovered 300 artifacts and caught in the act and arrested 40 looters; however, see AGI on the same day for a different figure for the artifacts

Photo: "Lunedì 1 Marzo 2004, 20:36  -  Iraq: recuperati reperti culturali" [recovered cultural remains]

  • "SFIR 2 – Nog ff …… !," in Nederlands Detachement Irak (the Netherlands), online,  March 1, 2004

    All photos: "Copyright Koninklijke Marine"

Photo 1: "Wanneer je zaken kunt combineren met cultuur is dat mooi meegenomen. Vooral als de zaken plaats dienen te vinden in Babylon. Ik neem aan dat een ieder wel op de hoogte is van het feit waar Babylon bekend om staat en anders moet u het maar eens opzoeken op de computer. Een aantal collegae had het geluk dat zij mee konden in deze 'tasking' en hebben onder andere deze foto gemaakt. De foto toont het nieuw opgebouwde gedeelte van Babylon." [It's nice when you can combine business with culture.  Esp. when you have business to take care of in Babylon.  I assume everyone knows what makes Babylon famous and if not you can look it up on [the internet].  A nuber of colleagues were lucky enough to go along for this "tasking" and took among others this photo.  The photo shows the new reconstructed section of Babylon.]

Photo 2: "Naast een nieuw gedeelte heb je natuurlijk ook een oud gedeelte. Helaas zijn de ruïnes van de bekende toren van Babylon niet meer echt goed te zien. Dit schijnt alleen vanuit de lucht te kunnen worden waargenomen. Deze foto toont wat oude gedeeltes van Babylon." [Besides a new section there is of course also an old section.  Unfortunately, the ruins of the famous tower of Babel are no longer very visible.  It seems you can only spot them from in the air.  This photo shows some of the old sections of Babylon.] [these photos were taken by members of the Royal "Marechaussee," the Dutch military police force]

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).