The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Fifty-Seven: First 1/2 of August 2005

This is the fifty-seventh 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.

  • F. Deblauwe, "Mesopotamian Ruins and American Scholars. Two Years Later: Some Lobbying Successes But the Devastation of Iraq's Cultural Heritage Continues," in The Bible and Interpretation, online, August [15], 2005: actually the English-language predecessor to Deblauwe July 2005; overview article about: archaeology in Iraq since 2003, polemics against US Mesopotamian scholars, US academic initiatives and legislative success, crisis and move of 2003- IW&A to Vienna; "Nowadays, all a Western archaeologist ends up doing is sitting around in his/her Baghdad hotel and hoping (s)he does not get blown up on his way to a meeting with Coalition, SBAH, or other Iraqi government officials. The National Museum is closed down shut, awaiting better days. Venturing out to archaeological sites out in the desert is tantamount to asking to be kidnapped. Not exactly the stuff academic dreams are made of! So this leaves us here in the safety of our homes with 24-hour electricity and water–unlike in Iraq–to plan for the future, a better future that surely must come around some day for Iraq."

    Photos 1-2: [captions included in image; both © John M. Russell]

  • A. Castaneda, "Ancient ruins still stand amid Iraq chaos. Few risk making journey to lonely site north of Baghdad," in MSNBC, August 15, 2005: "Most visitors [to Hatra] are guests of the U.S. military, and a handful of Iraqi guards protect the site. Most of the wire fence surrounding it has collapsed, but a girl in a bright dress is still on hand to dutifully raise a gate for a visiting convoy of Humvees. Inside the circular city stand several largely intact temples to ancient gods, including a stone shrine over two stories high, dedicated to Shamash, the sun god. Although many relics and statues were rushed away to museums in Baghdad and Mosul during the 2003 invasion, a statue of a robed woman, possibly a king’s wife, still stares down at visitors. Inscriptions in Aramaic, the language once spoken by Christ, are still visible on some buildings. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, looters shot and damaged decorated features on Hatra’s walls, McGuire Gibson, an archaeology professor at the University of Chicago, said in an e-mail. ... 'Probably the worst damage was caused by the exploding of munitions by U.S. forces,' he said. Gibson said the military eventually diminished the blasts, which were threatening to destabilize buildings in Hatra, but continued detonating explosives in the area. Despite the turmoil, glimpses of the city’s mixed East-West architecture of Roman, Hellenistic and Parthian styles testify to the diverse tradesmen and travelers who once passed through. 'The significance of Hatra as a bridge between East and West is plain for all to see,' Roberta Ricciardi Venco, a professor at Turin University in Italy who has conducted surveys and excavations in the city, said in an e-mail. ... Hatra’s novelty is its largely unexcavated condition. Dozens of unfinished digs lie outside the inner wall of the city, showing sand-covered shapes that leave visitors wondering about what lies beneath." "In the 1990s Saddam Hussein started to reconstruct parts of the site — but ordered that bricks stamped with his name be used. A handful of bullet casings lined some temple floors and U.S. Black Hawk helicopters swooped above. Though U.S.-led forces have brought relative calm to this rural area, guards warned of insurgents in the distance." "'You’ve got to be kidding. I know of no archaeologist who would think of visiting the site right now,' said Gibson."

Photo: "The face of a woman stares down at visitors in the Hatra ruins, 200 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.  Antonio Castaneda / AP"
  • R. Atwood, "The Story of the Iraq Museum. Picking up the pieces of 40,000 years of cultural life," in Scientific American, August 2005: another review of "The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad" edited by Polk and Schuster; "Its editors aren't interested in raking over old coals or giving a definitive account of how the looting happened. Instead they offer an eloquent, moving and abundantly illustrated history of an institution housing the remains of 40,000 years of Iraqi cultural life, from Neandertals to Ottomans. Twenty-two writers, including curators and archaeologists, tell the story in essays that evoke the excitement of digging up the world's original civilization and a wistful nostalgia for Iraq's bygone days of field research and camaraderie. The Gulf War, U.N. sanctions and, finally, the explosion of pillage on America's watch all took a devastating toll on museums and archaeology. The only artifacts being found these days in Iraq are those dug up by looters to feed the antiquities trade, and no one in this book ventures a guess as to when, or even if, fieldwork will ever happen again. But slowly, the museum is picking up the pieces." "Even after the looting, no institution in the world can tell the story of writing like the Iraq Museum. Cuneiform, the world's first script, was born in southern Iraq, and carbon dating indicates it originated between 3400 and 3300 B.C., writes Robert Biggs in one of the book's finest essays. ... Biggs recounts how the Chicago department store Marshall Field's was selling cuneiform tablets from Ur for $10 each as late as the 1960s." "Journalists Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton surveyed sites invaded by bootleg diggers after Saddam fell, and their account in this book suggests not so much looting as industrial-scale leaching. Hundreds of men were digging for treasure, by day and by night with shovels, generators, lightbulbs and trucks. Five Sumerian cities (there are only 18 [sic]) have had the top nine feet of their surfaces completely sifted by looters, an 'unimaginably grim reality, a scene of complete destruction,' they write." "Two centuries of research into Mesopotamian civilization have been stopped in their tracks by war, looting and lawlessness. A stone excavated at Nippur carries a long invocation to the goddess Inanna to protect a temple and ends with a humble plea to mortals: 'The governor who keeps it permanently in good condition will be my friend.' Whoever wrote those words wouldn't have many friends now."

Photo: "Image: Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams - Woman's Head, from the ninth or eighth century B.C., was thrown down a well during an attack on Nimrud, near present-day Mosul, in 612 B.C. Paradoxically, this traditional way of destroying enemy goods preserved the head. It suffered severely, however, when the storeroom housing it was flooded during the sack of Baghdad in 2003. (Stained ivory, 16.1 centimeters high.)"

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).