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

This is the thirty-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.

  • J. Friedman, "Soldiers helping restore cultural treasures in Ninevah," in The United States Army, online, August 6, 2004: "Maj. Wayne Bowen, head of the 416th’s Higher Education and Antiquities Team, is working with Ninevah Director of Antiquities, Muzahim Mahmood, ... 'The Nergal Gate is just one of 15 gates that surrounded the ancient Assyrian capitol of Ninevah, but we decided to focus on this one first because it was in the best condition,' Bowen explained. The $22,000 project, funded by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, includes repaving the ramp leading up to the gate using the authentic Assyrian cobblestone pattern, renovating the gate itself to provide museum displays in both wings and building roofs to protect the various statues and reliefs on the site. Because most of the structure is still intact and there was historic documentation preserved over the years, the gate will soon look much as it did in ancient times." "The second project involves restoring the site of King Sennacheribe’s palace, which is strategically located high on a hill overlooking the Tigris River and was the seat of government in Ninevah during his reign in the early 8th century B.C. ... in April of 2003 it was extensively looted and damaged." "... preliminary work such as building roofs over the reliefs and erecting a temporary fence has already been completed by UNESCO archaeologists. Security guards were also added for the first time in history. ... the second phase of the project, which will provide additional security with an improved fence and lighting, improve the road for better access and remove a large oil tank that was installed on the property during the Second World War."
Photo 1: " Local workers painstakingly recreate the ramp leading up to the Nergal Gate using the authentic Assyrian cobblestone pattern.  Sgt 1st Class Julie Friedman"

Photo 2: " By Sgt 1st Class Julie Friedman - August 6, 2004 - Members of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion tour the site of King Sennacheribes palace on a hill overlooking the Tigris River valley and the city of Mosul."

[guess what Mr. Braude wrote so eloquently in his "The New Iraq" book: "Imperialism came to Iraq long before the ideology received its name in modern times.  And along with it came all the peoples and beliefs that constitute the mosaic that is Iraq today.  Legacies of ancient history can still be seen in the faces of Iraq's peoples, in the ruined clay and bricks of ancient cities' archeological ruins, and in the words and deeds of leaders who boldly harken back to the glory of 'historic Iraq.'  Iraqis today remember their country as the birthplace of writing and pedagogy, democracy and terror, monotheism and the rule of law, warfare and organized violence.  Those who set out to revise memory in the new Iraq have a legacy of symbols and models to choose from as variegated as human history.  The legacy of ancient Iraq is the legacy of civilization itself." (p. 14); see also Harris July 24, 2003 and for the sentencing, Yahoo! News November 22, 2004]
  • "Iraq's ancient sites face destruction," in (Qatar), August 1, 2004: "Sites like Baylon, one of the world's most renowned archaeological treasures, were and still are being damaged further, by the occupation forces, says [Iraqi] minister [of culture] Mufeed al-Jazairi. The minister also said on Sunday that the US led foreign forces need to leave the area as soon as possible to avoid further destruction. Heavy equipment, helicopters and other machinery used by Polish-led forces based at Babylon, 100 km south of Baghdad, are causing irreparable harm, he said." "'We don't know how much damage the military presence has caused because our experts are not permitted to enter the site. But we have received information that several archaeological sites have been damaged or destroyed,' he said, mentioning the temples of Ninma and Nabu, and the famed palace of Nibushadnizar [Nebukadnezzar]." "... ancient roofs and walls had collapsed while other buildings were destroyed or badly damaged over a period of time. He also said that workers employed by US contracting firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) had been digging and building in the area around Babylon, causing further damage. Jazairi said he didn't know what the digging was for and they were never informed about it either." "'We already asked Bremer in June to request that an immediate end be put to these activities, but nothing happened,' Jazairi said. 'We again ask the (US led) multinational forces to put an immediate end to such activities. We can't ignore any more what's going on at the site and the harm that is being done.'" [see Yahoo! News June 11, esp. this promise by Bremer and General Sanchez: "... any future coalition activity around Babylon would only be done in close consultation with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities."; see also Willmann July 15]

Photo: "The ancient city of Babylon is being destroyed by troop activities"

  • A. Minter, "The Art of War. A Minnesota reservist is the U.S. military’s only professional curator. Meet the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Corine Wegener, Iraq war hero," in The Rake. Secrets of the City (Minnesota), August 2004: "... Corine Wegener, the diminutive assistant curator for the Department of Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft, and Sculpture, ..." "'A couple of days into the looting I received a phone call from Jennifer <Carlquist, curatorial assistant at the MIA>,' Wegener recalls. 'She said, ‘Cori, the Army’s looking for you.’'" "Though some may doubt the wisdom or necessity of preserving art and culture in wartime, the simple fact is that the United States is bound by treaty to do so—and also to protect and reliably administer, during an occupation, buildings related to art, science, and religion. If those obligations are to be taken seriously, then the experiences and recommendations of Major Wegener are to be taken seriously. After ten months in Iraq coordinating the most intense U.S. military effort to conserve cultural resources since World War II, Wegener returned home determined to improve what she could not control or improve on the ground in Iraq." "'You sort of wonder why nobody in the media noticed that most of the cases [in the National Museum's public galleries] were just left alone,' she sighs. 'One broken case and a lot of empty, unbroken cases probably mean that most of the cases were empty to begin with.' Which, in fact, they were. In the months leading up to the American invasion, a group of five Iraqi cultural officials carefully 'de-installed' most of the collections from the galleries and moved them to a secret site to prevent the expected looting of the collection. A pact was established not to reveal the location to anyone, and even today the location is still known only to the group and a select few additional figures, including Major Wegener. Reportedly, the site will be revealed only after Iraq’s new political system stabilizes and U.S. troops leave the country." "In Iraq, for example, the United States military was simply unprepared to secure thousands of archaeological sites, which were subsequently looted. But could it have secured the Iraq National Museum, located in central Baghdad? Wegener is conflicted. 'I was pretty unhappy about it at the time,' she says with a tight smile. 'But I’m not going to second-guess the commanding general.'"

"'There was a lot of pressure to get a precise inventory [of the losses at the Museum],' she recalls, 'because Central Command was getting pounded in the press.' She shakes her head. 'If you showed up here at the MIA and asked for a precise accounting of objects—now—I couldn’t do that. But that’s hard to explain to a colonel who doesn’t have museum experience.' In recounting her experience, Wegener skirts criticism and instead focuses upon what can and needs to be improved. It quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t so much a diplomatic maneuver as an approach born out of Wegener’s own sense of integrity, her respect for the military that she’s served for two decades—and her modesty in downplaying her own considerable skills while praising others. Prior to her deployment, Wegener saw her role at the Iraq Museum as twofold: 'I would assist the museum staff with their relationship with the military, and I would try to coordinate an international relief conservation effort.' [On her computer,] Wegener opens an image of a smashed marble statue in one of the museum’s galleries, taken shortly after her arrival in Baghdad. It shows the pieces still scattered on the floor—and that’s where she wanted them to remain until a conservator could arrive. The military and political command ... [woul]d ask, ‘Why doesn’t the staff sweep up the statues?' Wegener tried to delay them, but as the weeks passed ... one day I arrived and the statues had been swept up,' she recalls with a sigh. ... It was a frustrating situation made worse by the fact that the Iraq Museum had only one trained conservator—who worked solely with brass objects. 'Every day I was writing memos begging, ‘I need help!’' says Wegener. Despite those pleas, and the availability of conservators from a number of countries willing to go to Iraq, help was often withheld for a variety of reasons. At times, the situation bordered on the comic: The British Museum could not obtain visas for its conservators, who ended up tagging along with a BBC team filming a documentary. The staff were only able to work at the Iraq Museum for a few days. Likewise, the U.S. Department of State sent an assessment team, including a conservator, but only for two weeks. Meanwhile, the Dutch, who actually maintain art conservators in their military, deemed the situation too dangerous to send them. One American civilian who did make it to Iraq, and whose help was invaluable to Wegener, was John Russell, ... 'He was really important.' Russell, a trained Assyriologist, provided a valuable archaeologist’s perspective both to the museum and several key archaeological sites in Iraq. Italy provided the most help. Early on, they sent Ambassador Pietro Cordone as an advisor, and he was able to provide the museum with 'cultural carbanieri'—essentially, police specially trained in protecting 'cultural patrimony.' The Italians also provided funding and staff to re-establish a conservation laboratory in the museum. Nevertheless, Wegener was constantly faced with the fact that there was never—and probably never would be—enough help. 'I was disappointed,' she admits. 'I wish I could have done more.'"

"Joining the Army Reserve was primarily a way to earn money for college (she majored in political science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha), ..." "After college, Wegener spent a year in law school before serving as a quartermaster officer in Germany during the first Gulf War. When she returned to the U.S., she began a masters degree in political science, with a concentration in international relations, at the University of Kansas. But as graduation approached, she decided that her goal of working in international affairs was unrealistic. 'Those jobs don’t grow on trees,' she says. 'So I asked myself, ‘What is my ideal job?’ And the answer was easy: I’d work in an art museum.'" "She completed a masters in art history at the University of Kansas in 1996 and moved to Minneapolis, ... She quickly found an unpaid internship in the MIA’s decorative arts department. Over the next four years Wegener assisted the MIA’s curators—while also taking time off to serve in Bosnia and Guam with the Army Reserve. ... last year, she was named an assistant curator." "Then, while preparing for her deployment to Iraq at Fort Bragg, Wegener met Roxanne Merritt, the civilian curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum. The pair discussed the fact that the Army, and particularly its soldiers, needed more training in wartime arts conservation. And so, in the aftermath of Wegener’s work in Iraq, Merritt and Wegener are collaborating on a cultural-property guide for U.S. Army personnel, aimed at training them in emergency conservation procedures—work that the pair is doing on a volunteer basis."

"One afternoon, not long after arriving in Baghdad, ... dozens of important antique Jewish manuscripts—including portions of a Bible dating from 1568, and extensive Jewish communal records from the early 20th century—from the flooded basement of the Iraqi secret police headquarters. ... [Dr. Harold Rhode, a Near Eastern expert working for the Department of Defense] and [Kristen] Silverberg, [a political advisor on loan from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office to Ambassador Paul Bremer, had] made the unfortunate decision to dry them in the sunshine before placing them in tin cases, which were left to cook in a small concrete outbuilding behind Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress compound. By the time they went looking for Wegener, the manuscripts were moldering." "'I was like, ‘Duh! You should’ve frozen them!’' Of course, Silverberg and Rhode can rightly be excused for not knowing the correct emergency conservation techniques. Less excusable, perhaps, is the fact that Wegener was the only individual in Iraq with even minimal training or knowledge on conservation matters. 'I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m it. I can’t believe I’m the only one.’' Though she received some training, Wegener is no conservator. 'I could only help them stabilize the situation.' After consulting by satellite phone with MIA staff and with Helen Alten, a conservator in St. Paul, she requested a refrigeration truck. Silverberg, ... obtained one from the KBR division of Halliburton; she also got two 'very brave' conservators flown in from the National Archives to assess the situation." "Freezing them was only a temporary step in their preservation. Further actions would need to be taken—including a month-long freeze-drying process—before actual conservation could begin. 'Yeah, I want to follow international law,' Wegener says. 'But if we didn’t get the manuscripts out, they wouldn’t be a problem for anybody.' The National Archives in Washington, D.C., agreed to accept and conserve the manuscripts for a period of two years, at which time they would be returned to Iraq. In August 2003, Wegener accompanied the collection to Fort Worth, Texas, on a dedicated cargo plane. After freeze-drying, the documents were moved to Washington, D.C., but due to a lack of funding, no further conservation efforts have taken place." [unfortunate contrast with the Ottoman-period archival materials discussed in Bahrani August 31?; see also Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries January 12, 2004]

"In Wegener’s photos, both tears and laughter are evident as museum staff handle crowns, jewels, and solid gold chains with somewhat unprofessional abandon. 'But I kept my mouth shut,' she says. 'It wasn’t my stuff.'" [see Feeney and Simmons April 10, 2004]; "Wegener left Iraq on March 2, ten months after her arrival, and half a year after her scheduled departure. 'Leaving the people and the museum was hard,' she says. 'Leaving Iraq was not.' She shrugs and closes her laptop. 'In regard to the museum, I’m not optimistic. But I am hopeful.' She cites the collection and the staff as her primary reasons for hope. 'But it’s all about stability and their ability to reopen the museum to the public.'" "Even more ambitiously, she wants to establish an international organization of combat conservators. 'You know, these are people who would get a call and say, ‘I have to go to Iraq now,’' Wegener says with enthusiasm. 'They come in a flak vest and helmet, I meet them at the airport, take them to work at the museum, and then replace them a few weeks later.'"

Photo: [no caption; likely a Mesopotamian cylinder seal from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' collection; 9-3-04: Minter confirmed this and said it was actually Wegener holding the seal, dated ca. 800 BC]]

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).