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

This is the twenty-sixth 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.

  • J.E. Kaufman, "Iraq: the legacy of neglect and conflict. John Russell, the acting senior advisor for culture to the Coalition Provisional Authority, assesses the situation on the ground," in The Art Newspaper (UK), April 30, 2004: "The senior advisor has been, by agreement, an Italian, and Professor Russell has been in charge while the post has been temporarily vacant." [Mario Bondioli Osio left a while ago]; "Have you traveled outside Baghdad?
    JR: I’ve made two trips outside the city, to Nineveh in February and to Babylon a week later." [this in 7 months he's been there!]; "So the Nineveh site museum in suburban Mosul is now protected, as far as I can tell, from weather and thieves. Nimrud has a good local guard force on it. ... I went to Babylon to see the ancient site, which was heavily restored by the last regime. Some people don’t like it, but for me it’s a fascinating evocation of the substantial structures that were once there. Babylon is in the middle of a military camp now so it’s pretty well protected. The Polish forces there are accompanied by a Polish archaeologist who works to protect the sites in the area." [not Dr. Michal Gawlikowski as was suggested by some, see Markert February 25, 2004; it turned out to be Dr. Rafal Kolinski from Poznan University, see Krzemińska mid-April 2004); "The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage is one of 10 divisions of the Ministry of Culture. The Antiquities board remained intact. By and large it’s the same staff that was there prior to the 2003 war. Dr Abdul Aziz Hamid, a special ist in Islamic art, has just been assigned from the Ministry of Higher Education to head the Antiquities board. ... the National Library and Archives, which is another division of the Ministry of Culture." "JR: Last fall, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) sent a team of experts to assess the need for rehabilitation and reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure. Their survey resulted in $750,000 in contracts for electrical, plumbing, HVAC and other building repairs, as well as installation of a computer network, communications equipment, and other technological improvements. That’s virtually finished. Most of the work was subcontracted to local Iraqi companies. So there will be an official Iraq Museum website, email, and a functioning building back in communication with the rest of the world very soon. Who else has contributed funding, and is more needed? JR: The Packard Humanities Institute, a private US charity, has provided another $1 million ...; $250,000 went to computer and photographic equipment and furniture for the museum offices. I secured $1 million from the Iraqi Ministry of Culture capital improvement budget for security upgrades to the museum. The closing date for proposals was in April. We are reviewing contracts and if there is a successful bidder we will sign a contract. The project will take two months to complete. ... The Italian government has funded extensive renovation to the conservation laboratory, and conservators are now at work for the first time since the looting, taking care of objects that were returned or damaged in storage. The Japanese pledged $1 million for an analytical lab, and that work is about to start. The Germans ... donated cabinets for storage of the [c]uneiform tablet collection that will be installed in the National Museum. And there have been donations from scholars who have traveled here."
"How is the Packard money being spent? JR: The lion’s share is going to equipment for the protection of archeological sites in southern Iraq. Approximately $750,000 has been spent on 20 pickup trucks purchased in Kuwait and awaiting delivery, and police radios (15 base stations, 20 car radios, 90 handheld radios) now en route to Iraq. I’ve met with archaeological site security and antiquities department officials from Qadissiya Governorate [bordering Dhi Qar governorate] to discuss how to allocate this material. Our intention is to coordinate closely with the antiquities and law enforcement authorities in each governorate. Another $1 million has been pledged for site protection by CPA South Central, and $500,000 pledged for equipment by Japan for archaeological site protection, vehicles and radios." "What is the state of the National Library? JR: ... the National Library and Archives, which suffered two fires during the looting last year. ... staff are working in the usable parts of the old building, preserving and cataloguing the collections. The [Library of Congress] team recommended that the library should be relocated and an existing structure —the former Republic an Guard Officers Club overlooking the Tigris River—has been chosen as the new site, but will need rehabilitation and an addition to function as a library. ... The old National Library should be used for the National Archives, and the House of Manuscripts should be independent of the National Library and Archives. Packard is also paying for conservation supplies for the National Library. What is the situation at the other major museums? JR: ... Saddam had ignored the museums for decades, so 90% of what we have to do is infrastructure upgrades. The Mosul Museum has just received a $350,000 contract from the CPA in Nineveh Province to upgrade the security. The Nasiriya Museum has been promised a renovation by the Italian Carabinieri." [but they just handed it back over rather abruptly so it seems; did the renovation take place? see Corriere della Sera April 23]; "And the Museum of Babylon, part of which was looted and damaged, has been renovated. It doesn’t have its antiquities collections installed yet, but it looks great. I believe that’s been done by Coalition forces. When might the museums reopen? JR: The Iraq National Museum could be ready to open in a few months. Physically the building could be opened. The construction work is done. But we wouldn’t want to do that until the security contract for physical improvements and upgrades is done. It’s up to the Iraq Museum staff to decide when the security situation permits reopening, and how much time they want to put into installing the gallery. ... The Mosul Museum will not open until the refurbishment is complete and the security situation improves. The Babylon Museum is open for those with access to the military base, but has displays of photos and paintings about Babylon, not antiquities."

"[JR:] But as far as I can tell the looting of sites has improved gradually, thanks particularly to the work of the Coalition, most notably in Nasiriya province where the Italian Carabinieri have made it a priority. Also in Babel province where the local CPA administration has set up an extensive site-protection system with a lot of guards, trucks and motorcycles. As far as I can tell that’s been providing pretty good protection. CPA has pledged $1 million in the south central region for equipment to protect archaeological sites. I haven’t seen if that’s been put into place yet." "The areas I would like to see more resources and energy put into include continued protection of archaeological sites, province by province, until they’re all covered. As soon as you push looters out of one province they could go to another. A high priority is reinforcement of the Antiquities department’s security force. Congress has approved $18.4 billion in supplemental spending contracts to reconstruct Iraq. Since Iraq is covered with archaeological sites, many of them undiscovered, I’d like to see all of those contracts have an archaeological monitoring program attached to avoid sites wherever possible. The State Antiquities Board seeks to minimize damage from development projects and has introduced reasonable contract language that will ensure the presence of antiquities experts on reconstruction projects. It’s going to be a matter of making sure its on developers’ radar screen. A third priority would be to continue training and professional development through international exchange programs. ... ECA is hoping to bring librarians over, too. The British have done a training project for conservators in London. The US Agency for International Development ... has given more than $4 million to the State University of NY at Stonybrook to create a consortium with Baghdad University and others to modernize curricula in archaeology and Assyriology. I’d like to see work at the Museum continue, getting it back to a position where it can again play a public role in the life of Iraqis and internationally. And a renewed emphasis on police work to recover pieces. There are thousands of pieces missing. What we have is largely an estimate for now, until a full inventory can be completed. I think a lot are still in Baghdad and Iraq, but no high-profile piece has been returned since November ..." [not coincidentally when the US 812th MP Company left; see Komarow November 12, 2003]; "There are projects to provide computer and database assistance to document cuneiform tablets and other objects, and stolen objects - offers of assistance are substantial but need to be fit into an overall organisational framework that responds to the needs of the museums. In a vacuum where people aren’t able to communicate effectively, outsiders come up with all sorts of ideas, but unless you can coordinate with people in the institution, they remain just ideas." [hear, hear!]

"An international tour of the Nimrud gold and other treasures is being proposed by United Exhibition Group of Copenhagen. What do you think of this project? JR: It’s great to offer to do shows, but loan shows come out of functioning institutions, not ones that are rebuilding. ... In terms of priorities, the last thing that needs to be done now is to take a section of the collection away so people can see it abroad. ... If people want to help now they should come here or get in touch with someone who is here. The Iraqis would like nothing more than for the world to start thinking of them as the cradle of civilization, rather than Saddam’s civilization. That is a justification for a loan show that the Iraqis mentioned to me. They [take] great pride in their heritage. The Nimrud gold hasn’t been shown to the Iraqis except for a few months in 1990. For a national treasure that’s not very much. Let’s show it at home first. Now the need is for infrastructure." [interesting: maybe, just maybe this idea was pushed by politicians rather than scholars...]

All Photos: "foto's FV / Kon. Landmacht"

Photo 1: "Spijkerschrift op een van de stenen" [cuneiform on one of the stones]

Photo 2: "De imposante (deels gerestaureerde) entree van het paleis van Nebudkadnezar; het oude Babylon" [the imposing (partially restored) entrance to the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar; ancient Babylon]

Photo 1: "... Dr. Clemens Reichel (pictured, right), of the University of Chicago ..."

Photo 2: "... Dr. McGuire Gibson (pictured, below right) ..."

Photo 3: "Oriental Institute staffers and volunteers have spent months painstakingly cataloging and posting on the internet images of items believed to have been stolen." [wave of computer display envy overwhelms me...; is that Clemens?]

Photo 4: "Invaluable items, similar to these housed at the University of Chicago's Oriental  Institute, are thought to be available on the open market."

Photo 5: [no caption; detail of one of the sculptures in photo 4]

  • J.E. Kaufman, "Iraqi curators reunited with lost head in US museum. A black diorite head of a Gudea figure whose body is in the National Museum in Baghdad is found in the University of Pennsylvania Museum," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [April 23, 2004]: "Most of the Iraqis on the tour are associated with the National Museum in Baghdad. ... At the University of Pennsylvania Museum ... [a]ssociate curator Richard L. Zettler ... led the Iraqis to a storage room, they recognised a black diorite head of a Gudea figure whose body is in the National Museum in Baghdad. 'When I saw the head, I felt a bit of pain because the body is in Baghdad,' said Abdul-Rezaq, one of the visitors, 'I think the body is calling for the head, or vice versa. I’d like to take it back to Iraq. I think the head would be happier there.' Mr Zettler told The Art Newspaper that the head was acquired in the late 1920s from a New York dealer. In 1935 the museum sent a cast of the head to the National Museum of Baghdad which Iraqi curators then placed on their statue.  Mr Zettler said that his museum now adheres to 'strict standards about the acquisition of artefacts, particularly from parts of the world where cultural heritage is being looted, as it is in Iraq today.' He also suggested that the two museums might one day share the statue for alternating displays."

Photo: [no other information]

Photo 1: "Iraq Museum and its collections. Interiors of museum and various collections"

Photo 2: "John Russell, senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. On how rewarding and challenging the Iraq museum restoration project is"

Photo 3: "John Russell, senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. On the museum’s collections"

  • K. Renik, "Nie wolno przekraczać pewnych granic. Marek Lemiesz," in Sygnały Dnia (Polskie Radio Program 1; Poland), with online audio, April 20, 2004: interview with Dr. Lemiesz whom I later found out (July 5, 2004) not to be a culprit in the "scandal" of the Polish archaeological project in Babylon after all, see Krzemińska mid-April; thanks to Karina Zajadacz, an intern at the Getty Conservation Institute, for translating this article (which does not pertain to archaeology)!

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).