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

This is the thirty-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.

  • In an e-mail dated September 30, 2004, Dr. Rafał Koliński was so kind to respond to my comments to Koliński May 2004: "A number of SBAH personel had permits to enter the site at the time of my stay: Dr Maryam Musa, the director of the SBAH office in the province, and the entire staff of the Babylon Museum, some guards included. Dr Maryam insisted on having permits for her entire staff, but it turned out this was difficult to arrange; only five additional permits were finally issued to Iraqi archaeologists who were supposed to cooperate on the Babylon Archaeological Project. But, of course, presence of SBAH staff at the site does not mean that they had any influence on the military authorities. As far as I know most of Dr Maryam's requests were turned down by the army. The situation improved on my arrival to Babylon and when Mr Lemiesz, who was a CIMIC expert on heritage at the MND [Multi National Division, basically the Coalition military] headquarters, because we had a better understanding of what Dr Maryam wanted and it was much easier for us to talk to the Polish military who nominally were in charge of the camp. For instance, the work on the extension of the Landing Zone was suspended immediately and the project cancelled in three hours (archaeologists ceased to be a favorite toy of the military authorities since then). Anyway, interventions on behalf of our Iraqi collegues were always hard work and in most cases not satisfactory for both sides."
    "The storm was really exceptional in its intensity. I was able to compare the reconstructions before and after the storm and I assure you that, prior to the downpour, destruction was minimal (cracked beam in the roof of Ninmah temple and broken wall in the Nabu temple). I am attaching a picture showing one of the facades after the rain [see right]." "The damage in the Nabu temple was, in my opinion, caused by improper restoration. In several places, concrete and gypsum had been used to fill holes in walls caused by erosion. These fillings had been not anchored to the walls and consequently started to break off the bricks under their own weight. It appears that the filling in the smaller cella was the most substantial (and heaviest) and collapsed first, but this seems to be what happened in other places as well."

    Photo: [caption corrected (Koliński e-mail 11-8-04): northern façade of a reconstructed Neo-Babylonian house south of the Temple of Ishtar of Agade, Babylon, after severe rain storm of November 27, 2003, by Dr. Rafał Koliński]

  • J. Friedman, "Civil Affairs helps uncover the past at Hatra," in Stryker Brigade News, online, September 28, 2004: "Members of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Norristown, Pa., are helping the Iraqi people restore the site. Maj. Wayne Bowen of Little Rock, Ark., ...  [a]s leader of the 416th’s Higher Education and Antiquities Team, ... is working with Muzahim Mahmood, Ninevah Director of Antiquities, to prepare the site known as the 'place of the temples' to once again be a center for tourism." "Efforts are underway to begin some projects with ... UNESCO ... and the World Monument Fund, Bowen explained, but because of the security situation in the country, it has been difficult." "The first project the civil affairs Soldiers are undertaking is renovating the visitors’ center, to include improving the plumbing and replacing the windows that were destroyed. ... funding for the $27,950 visitors’ center project through the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, ..." "Officers from the Facilities Protective Services and the Antiquities Police now protect the Hatra site. As the restoration progresses, many of the more than 2,000 architecturally significant items that are now secured in Baghdad will be brought back."

    All photos: "Photos by Sgt. 1st Class Julie Friedman"

    Photo 1: "The remains of several temples and the ancient walls that surrounded them can be seen from atop the highest temple in the center of the ancient city of Hatra."

    Photo 2: "The temples of Hatra show evidence of Hellenistic and Roman architecture blended with Eastern decorative features."

    Photo 3: "Maj. Wayne Bowen of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion, standing atop the highest temple in Hatra, surveys the area as the Ninevah Director of Antiquities, Muzahim Mahmood (right), points out whole sections of the ancient city still waiting to be excavated."

  • "Tue Sep 28, 6:10 PM ET - Simona Pari, left, and Simona Torretta smile upon their arrival at Rome's Ciampino military airport, late Tuesday night, Sept. 28, 2004. The Italian women were kidnapped in Baghdad on Sept. 7, along with other two Iraqi aid workers. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)" [Yahoo! News Photos]

  • B. Burnham, "Heritage Partnership: Exploring the Unknown," in Conservation, The Getty Conservation Institute Newsletter, 19, 3 (Fall 2004): "When the U.S. government initiated planning for the invasion of Iraq, nonprofit organizations in the United States began making plans to offer assistance for the postinvasion recovery of cultural sites that might be damaged in the conflict. ... the W[orld] M[onuments] F[und] and the Getty Conservation Institute soon realized that the work of conservation organizations offering assistance to the Iraqi government should be coordinated. In March 2004, the GCI and the WMF signed a partnership agreement with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and in September 2004 they signed an agreement with UNESCO, which will provide the funds for training of and technical assistance for Iraqi heritage specialists. The short-term objective is to provide a system of information management that will allow Iraq to prioritize emergencies as they continue to arise and to direct assistance to where it is most urgently needed. As soon as political conditions permit, the GCI-WMF partnership will also provide resources to support hands-on conservation work at sites that have sustained damage and support planning for conservation of major monuments that are currently unprotected. The GCI-WMF initiative is the first time the two American heritage conservation organizations, which share a global mandate and ethic, have worked together. The partnership brings together two institutions with complementary capacities—the WMF's fieldwork, fund-raising, and advocacy, and the GCI's research work, training expertise, and experience with international field projects." "To avoid the confusion and duplication of efforts that would result from competing demands for Iraqi cooperation, the partnership seeks to place international assistance within a coordinated framework."

    Photos: "Two examples of archaeological heritage sites under threat in Iraq: Nimrud (top) and Nineveh (bottom), which was looted in the war. The GCI and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in partnership with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage have established the GCI-WMF Iraq Heritage Conservation Initiative to address the catastrophic damage sustained by Iraq's cultural heritage during and in the aftermath of the 2003 war. The protective shelter at Nineveh was reinstalled through an emergency grant made by the initiative. Photos: John M. Russell, courtesy World Monuments Fund."

  • D. Gordon, "From Distant Days. A UCLA scholar uses modern technology to understand and protect the remnants of an ancient civilization," in UCLA Magazine, Fall 2004: "[Robert Englund] is heading an ambitious international effort to enable systematic analysis of the ancient texts by a broad group of researchers, while also making cuneiform less foreign to the world outside the circle of Assyriologists like himself who study it. He’s employing our most modern media tools — computers and the Internet — in an initiative to preserve and make available the form and content of the half-million excavated cuneiform tablets left behind by ancient peoples from approximately 3350 B.C. through the end of the pre-Christian era. His work, and that of his colleagues, is perhaps even more relevant in these troubled times as the modern-day regions of ancient Babylonia are pummeled by war and lawlessness." "'The presumed plunder of the Iraq Museum shows the great potential of the Web for abuse as well as for good,' Englund says. 'At first, there were wildly exaggerated reports going out like wildfire of 180,000 objects removed and either destroyed or taken away in all directions. Through the great power of the Web, this was established as fact.' The loss is currently estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000 objects, most of it coming from a single large collection of cylinder seals. Rather than breathing a sigh of relief, Englund asserts that anyone interested in a shared world cultural history must think about what might have been and use the incident as a catalyst to digitally capture and preserve all of the most important collections of antiquities. To his dismay, that imperative appears to have returned to the back burner. Englund and colleagues did receive funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop an online catalogue of the cuneiform collection of the Iraq National Museum, estimated to include at least 40,000 tablets. The project’s goals include development of a Web site with both English and Arabic descriptions of the archived materials and relevant educational data, and a Web-based learning center designed to assist scholars and non-scholars alike — including Iraqi citizens — in gaining a deeper appreciation of the cultural roots that can be traced to the soil of ancient Iraq, where early civilization once flourished." "...  more than 500,000 [cuneiform tablets] have been unearthed, with at least 10 times that many estimated to still be lying in ruins, awaiting discovery." "The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (, with Englund and [Peter] Damerow [a mathematician at Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development] as principal investigators, was established in 2000 as an international collaboration of Assyriologists, museum curators, historians of science and information-technology specialists whose mission is to digitally capture and disseminate online three millennia’s worth of cuneiform tablets. Approximately 100,000 cuneiform documents have been catalogued thus far." "Those interested in how hierarchical societies develop can consult the administrative record from the end of the third millennium B.C. — again, more illuminating than any written record prior to the Middle Ages." "Just before and during the invasion of Iraq, there was a huge spike in hits on the CDLI site from users with 'dot-mil' addresses — many of them, Englund suspects, U.S. soldiers seeking to learn more about their new surroundings."

    Photo 1: "Photograph by Edward Carreon" [Dr. Robert Englund]

    Photo 2: "Photography courtesy of Robert Englund  -  Small alabaster bowl, ca. 2350 B.C.,  from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The inscription states: 'property of the  protective genie.'"

    Photo 3: "Photography courtesy of Robert Englund  -  Section of a large Ur III-period labor account, ca. 2050 B.C., from the collection of the Museum of the Ancient Near East at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Ancient Umma, where this piece was found more than 50 years ago, has been heavily plundered since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  The text inventories six laboreres described as 'half-time workers.'"

  • M. Bailey, "How Britain tried to use a Persian antiquity for political gain. The British Museum is to loan the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [September 18, 2004]: "Dating from 539 BC, it records Cyrus the Great’s order for the humane treatment of the Babylonians after their conquest by the Persians. As BM director Neil MacGregor points out, the text has 'powerful modern resonances in the context of current conflicts in the region'. The Cyrus Cylinder is to be lent to Tehran’s National Museum for several months in 2006. The Iranian museum has also promised to send more than 50 antiquities for the BM’s “Splendours of Ancient Persia” exhibition, which opens in September 2005. The Cyrus Cylinder has only left the British Museum once before, when it was sent to Iran in 1971. Thanks to secret government papers, recently declassified at the National Archives, we are able to tell the story of this extraordinary loan. The BM decided to lend the antiquity without consulting the Foreign Office, and the UK government later feared that the Iranians would refuse to return it. Concerns also arose that the Duke of Edinburgh or the Queen might wish to give the Cyrus Cylinder to the Shah as a gift." "The BM’s Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities, Richard Barnett, had been invited to a conference of Iranologists in Shiraz and was also asked if he could bring the Cyrus Cylinder. On 24 July, [1971,] the loan was approved by the trustees, ..." "Dr Barnett had flown into Tehran on 9 October with the Cyrus Cylinder in his holdall, and it then became the star exhibit in an unusual museum. The Shah had ordered the construction of an enormous arch-like monument near Tehran’s airport, known as the Shahyad, to glorify royal rule. A small museum was hastily set up in a basement beneath the arch. The Shah used the presence of the Cyrus Cylinder to argue that Persia had been the birthplace of human rights. This claim was being made at a time when he himself was becoming increasingly autocratic, brutally crushing political opposition. There were widespread allegations of torture by his secret police." "Although the cylinder was safely home, the diplomatic tussle continued, involving the Prime Minister. The Foreign Secretary’s officials contacted Edward Heath’s office, passing on the ambassador’s suggestion that, following the successful week-long display, the cylinder should either be presented to Iran or offered on permanent loan." "The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 in ancient Babylon, in what was then part of the Ottoman empire and is now modern Iraq. It was found by Hormuzd Rassam during an excavation undertaken by the British Museum, and he had authorisation from the Ottoman authorities to export the finds. Ownership of the cylinder therefore passed to the BM and title to it has never been seriously questioned." "The 23-centimetre long baked clay cylinder, inscribed in cuneiform, is an order by Cyrus the Great following his conquest of Babylon. This ended an earlier 'Iran-Iraq' war, with the expansion of the Persian empire. The text records how Cyrus ordered the restitution of images of gods, which had been taken to Babylon, and these were to be brought back to temples in Mesopotamia and western Iran. The king also called for the return to their homelands of people who had been deported to Babylonia. The message is therefore archaeological evidence to support Biblical texts that Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Palestine and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem." "British Museum director Neil MacGregor is astonished at the revelations in the Foreign Office file and is keen to stress that relations between British and foreign museums have changed profoundly since 1971. 'In the space of a generation there has been an unprecedented sharing of cultural heritage on the international exhibition circuit. The idea of objects going out and coming back is now completely normal; in those days it was more of a big deal. Today it is done on a museum-to-museum basis, not at governmental level. ... The BM’s current Keeper of the Ancient Near East, John Curtis, is convinced that it is right to lend the cylinder again to Tehran. He also points out that the cylinder was inscribed by a Babylonian scribe and discovered in Babylon, now part of modern Iraq. 'The Cyrus Cylinder is just as much part of the cultural heritage of Iraq as Iran. In due course, we might consider lending it to the National Museum in Baghdad'."

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).