The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Forty-Five: First 1/2 of February 2005

This is the forty-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.

  • J. Shiffman, "Ancient Iraqi seals recovered in Phila.," in The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14, 2005: "... which had been looted from an archaeological site near Babylon. The seals, which are believed to have been crafted between 3500 B.C and 2500 B.C. ..." "... were returned to the FBI in Philadelphia because it is the headquarters of the bureau's new Art Crime Team."

    Photo 1: "Courtesy University of Pennsylvania Museum. Segmented seal, with each section showing a pigtailed woman, hands raised, seated on a low dais. Black stone, ca. 3300-2900 BCE."

    Photo 2: "Contest scene showing lion attacking bull on each side of an eagle. Human with kilt tucked into waist band attacks lion on the right. Human head in profile, below the bull on the left. Mottled gray stone, ca. 2500 BCE."

    Photo 3: "Repeating design featuring concentric ovals. Black stone, ca. 3100-2900 BCE."

    Photo 4: "Birds reversed above and below undulating line. Black stone, ca. 2500 BCE."

    Photo 5: "Design showing chevrons framed by horizontal lines. Stone or shell, ca. 3100-2900 BCE."

    Photo 6: "Contest scene with five combatants. A human in the center grasps horned animals that are in turn attacked by lions. Shell, ca. 2350-2200 BCE."

    Photo 7: "Repeating design featuring horned four-legged creatures. Stone, ca. 3100-2900 BCE."

    Photo 8: "Presentation scene showing a human figure, probably the king, with a mace, facing a deity holding weapons. An interceding goddess with hands raised, stands behind the king. Smaller human figures, including a bow-legged dwarf, in the field. Black stone, ca. 2000-1500 BCE."







  • D. Johnston, "Picking Up the Stolen Pieces of Iraq's Cultural Heritage," in The New York Times, February 14, 2005: "In 2003, a marine at an American military base in southern Iraq bought eight carved stones from a trinket vendor for several hundred dollars. When he returned to New York, he took the stones to an archaeology professor at Columbia University, who concluded they were ancient artifacts, some dating back 5,000 years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, ... will return them on Wednesday to Iraqi authorities at a ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania's archaeology museum, which plans to display the pieces - before they are returned to Iraq - as an example of the continuing threat to the country's cultural heritage." "... the cylinder seals ... were pillaged from archaeological sites around the country. Zainab Bahrani, the archaeology professor at Columbia University to whom the marine took the stones ..." "The case is the first recovery of looted Iraqi artifacts by the F.B.I. since the war started, ..." "Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., ... in a speech last November, saying British authorities had concluded in 2003 that 'there is a link between the removal and transport of cultural objects and the funding of terrorism.'" "The marine bought the seals suspecting that they might be archaeologically significant, ... After meeting with Ms. Bahrani, ... the marine turned over the seals to the bureau in Philadelphia, where agents have jurisdiction over cases in the United States that are related to the looting of the Iraqi National Museum after Baghdad fell. Although it is a crime to bring such artifacts into the United States, law enforcement officials said the United States attorney in Philadelphia formally declined to prosecute. ... equipment and personal property is searched before troops leave Iraq, and packages are examined before being shipped. It is unclear how the marine got the eight seals out of the country." "John Malcolm Russell, a professor of art history at the Massachusetts College of Art who was a senior cultural adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq [interesting how Dr. Bahrani was not identified as such], estimated that in the last two years, hundreds of thousands of significant cultural artifacts have been taken, possibly as many as 400,000 to 600,000. That, he said, translates to a trade worth $10 million to $20 million a year. Mr. Russell based his estimates on seizures like one last year in which Iraqi authorities stopped a smuggler with about 3,000 cultural objects, mainly cuneiform tablets containing early examples of writing. The smuggler told authorities that he made two or three such shipments each week - a statement Mr. Russell used to develop his assessment of losses. The total, he said, was supported in part by satellite photographs taken in 2003 and 2004 that show a proliferation of new excavation holes.  Mr. Russell said that in recent months, Iraq has tried to stop the looting by deploying more than 1,750 armed guards in 20 newly bought trucks to several well-known sites in southern Iraq. 'It cut the looting back dramatically,' he said. 'If we could get 200 trucks, we could cut it back fundamentally. With $2 million, we could stop it.'" [somehow I suspect they've just moved on to other sites that aren't guarded]

Photo: "Keith Bedford for The New York Times - Mesopotamians used a cylinder seal to make imprints on clay or wax, above. A marine bought this seal and seven others in Iraq and brought them to the United States."
  • "Security barriers in capital get colourful face lift," in Electronic Iraq, online, February 11, 2005: "'If you cannot remove this barrier at least you can create an impression of peace against the true utility of this concrete. It is the least we can do for our people,' painter Sundus Yassin, told IRIN.  The paintings on the barriers are usually figures that depict traditional Iraqi culture, such as women wearing their abayas (cloaks covering them from head to toe) and symbols like the Lion of Babylonia."

    Photo: "Colourful barriers protect key buildings in Baghdad. (photo: IRIN)" [in front of the French embassy; depicted on the left are the Ishtar Gate and the lion sculpture from Babylon]
  • M. Roosevelt, "Re: Iraqcrisis digest, Vol 1 #437 - 2 msgs," in Iraqcrisis, online, February 11, 2005: "My company, Book Laboratory, created the book 'The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad' and we are co-publishing it with Harry N. Abrams and yes, it is being released on May 1st. ... Each chapter is written by an archaeologist and we have assembled a prestigious cadre of international experts from Iraq, England, France, Italy, and the US. Professor Robert Biggs from The Oriental Institute wrote the chapter on writing. The book begins with the looting of the museum with an introduction by Dr. Donny George, and continues with an overview of the looting of the archaeological sites by Micah Garen and Marie-Helene Carleton and an assessment of the value of the trade in looted artifacts by Angela Schuster (of Icon magazine and of the World Monuments Fund). Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster are the editors. The book then delves into the history of Mesopotamia beginning with Shanidar Cave and on to the advent of Islam. In all we have 24 contributors and it's been a challenge to be able to work with so many authors and in such a (relative) short time as I wanted the book to be published fairly quickly (and illustrated books take forever). We are donating royalties to the State Board of Antiquities ... I attach herewith the press release and the jacket ... [and] a list of our contributors. We are planning an event at The Oriental Institute with Dr. George and are assembling our book launch events nationwide." [the attachments were garbled up by the archival software of Iraqcrisis but I include the cover to the right; also, the jacket listed this:] "Contributors: Milbry Polk, Angela M. H. Schuster, Donny George, William R. Polk, Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton, Usam Ghaidan and Anna Paolini, Lamia Al-Gailani Werr,  Ralph Solecki, Harriet Crawford, Fiorella Ippolitoni Strika, Diana McDonald, Paul Collins, Robert D. Biggs, Julian Reade, Elisabetta Valtz Fino, Alastair E. Northedge, Vincenzo Strika, Selma Al-Radi, Zainab Bahrani, and Barbara A. Porter."

    Photo: [cover; from the Harry N. Abrams, Inc. web site]

  • S. Walsh, "War exposes history," in [Gary] Post-Tribune (Indiana), February 6, 2005, with a sidebar by F. Deblauwe: "A neglected monastery lies next to a graveyard of rusting Russian tanks on Forward Operating Base Marez, the home for some of the Indiana National Guard’s 113th Battalion. Capt. James Gazaway, the chaplain for the 113th Engineers, has visited the site at least twice. He’s an amateur archeologist, trained in Biblical history." "Local Chaldean leaders place its history back to the fourth century, Gazaway said. Most of the chaplain’s information comes secondhand, from units that had been in Mosul early last year. ... Looking at the monastery’s construction, Gazaway is skeptical about the age. He believes it’s more likely that the stone and mortar building is more recent, perhaps 16th century or as recent as the 18th century. 'There is no telling what’s underneath all of this. If it is of fourth-century origin, it’s underground,' he said. ... Marez was an Iraqi base before the Americans arrived. At one point, someone cut a road through the hillside, exposing another set of stone walls. Outside the existing walls, a beehive stone dome a set in the ground, with a tiny doorway at the bottom. ... A crumbling portion of the east wall shows where Americans fired a missile to dislodge Iraqi forces. Gazaway pointed to the outer stone and plaster, which fell away in the blast. The inner wall, the oldest part of the building, was still relatively intact. 'Those people were the ones who knew what they were doing,' he said, of the original builders. Later work is more haphazard, using local mud. Buildings in the outer part of the city still use the same techniques. But the inner walls are finely sifted, creating a mortar more like concrete, he said. Inside the courtyard, the 101st Airborne Division left its mark. Commanders used the fortress-like compound as a headquarters in 2003, shortly after the unit arrived in Mosul. Someone has since tried to scrub and spray paint away the Screaming Eagle logo they painted over the entrance to the chapel. Underground chambers are stuffed with empty 1.5-liter plastic water bottles and other trash from two armies. ... The west wall is a row of 10-foot-by-10-foot cells, which seem the perfect size for a monk. Each room has a small vaulted ceiling and a tiny alcove that could have housed a crucifix or statue. Very little decoration remains. Some of the doorways are encased in 10-inch-wide marble. The ceiling of the chapel rises two stories. Gazaway spotted a single alcove, 14 feet up the wall, which has an elaborate clay inlay. The clamshell style is Islamic, but after examining a few digital photographs, the chaplain sees a faint stylized cross traced into the clay. In the inner chapel, Sgt. Joe Collins of Gary used his flashlight to find the dim outline of one corner of a painting, hidden beneath layers of whitewash. ... Where a missile hit the chapel, the outer wall has bowed as much as a foot, cracking the plaster. ... Gazaway hopes eventually to attract American interest in excavating the site, from a university, church or some other private group.";

    my sidebar: "The monastery Capt. Gazaway brought to our attention is the Dair Mar Elia (St. Elijah Monastery). Originally a monk at the great monastery at Ezla Mountain in Turkey, Mar Elia established this monastery 4 miles southwest of Mosul during the reign of the Persian king Hurmizd IV in the 6th century. In the 17th century, the monastery was renovated. In 1743, the Kurdish [sic; see below] leader Tahmaz Nadir Shah ransacked it and murdered the monks. The complex saw many renovations again in the early 20th century. For instance, some halls and rooms were rebuilt during World War I and used as refuge. Thousands of Chaldean Christians from the region used to celebrate Mar Elia Day there at the end of November. There is a natural mineral water spring. However, a military camp (Muaskar Al-Ghazlani) was built around the monastery a couple of decades later and this curtailed those visits. Remnants of the original church are built into the current church." [with thanks to; in an e-mail dated February 7, 2005, Édouard Méténier (Université de Provence, France) kindly sent me an important correction: "Nadir Shah was not a Kurdish leader, but a Persian whose family's origins laid in Khurasan, among the Afshar tribesmen: his genuine name was Nadir Quli. He began his carreer helping Shah Tahmasp, the last of the Safavid pretenders, to regain his throne from the Afghan invaders of Persia. He thus gained the title of Tahmasp Quli Khan (1727). In 1736, he himself 'assumed the plume and diadem of Persia' so that, in 1743, when he besieged Mosul, he was the entitled sovereign of Persia known under the name of Nadir Shah. ... The correction is important since I think that, in Iraq's present context, the question is quite sensitive. As far as I know, there has never been in modern time Kurdish military expiditions west of the Tigris in the area south of Mosul..."; actually, Christians in Mosul are currrently coming under attack from Sunni extremists and some are fleeing to the safety of Kurdish-controlled Irbil as reported just now in, for instance, The Boston Globe]

    Photo 1: "Stone and mortar walls line the courtyard of the abandoned monastery. Its location inside a U.S. military base may make it the only ancient religious site in Mosul potentially open to Westerners. (Steve Walsh/Post-Tribune)"

    Photo 2: "Sgt. Joe Collins of Gary surveys the courtyard of the monastery."

    Photo 3: "Local religious leaders say the history of the site dates back to the fourth century."

    Photo 4: "Looking down at the vaulted chapel, beyond the darkened doorway, is an inner chapel with the faint outline of a painting."

    Photo 5: "A monastery doorway resembles an Egyptian tomb's entryway."

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).