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Ancient Relics of Iraq – “Candles Flickering in the Wind”

Ancient Relics of Iraq – “Candles Flickering in the Wind”

Posted February. 27, 2003 23:02,   


The Mesopotamia region in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers appears in the very first chapter of the world`s history textbooks. This is a birthplace of a human race in which they built a city to live and used letters about 5500 years ago.

The New York Times reported on the 25th about the crisis of the world`s archeology, saying that the war between the United states and Iraq would bring a disaster there, and added that the modern weapons attack the ancient cities… grave robbers will be active in their plundering, as well as the stoppage on the archeological excavation projects.

The European research teams already have suspended the excavation and have left Iraq a couple of months ago. The excavation project of Nineveh, the historical capital of Assyria, has been indefinitely postponed. The situations are the same for Syria, Jordan and the northern part of Turkey. Even if the war ends in a short period of time, the immediate resumption of the excavation projects would be difficult. The researcher of Egypt has yet resumed the Iran`s relic excavation project, which has been stopped during the Iran & Iraq War.

About thirty American research teams have discontinued their excavation projects in Israel and it looks like the remaining teams will also withdraw within the next few weeks.

The archeologists are deeply concerned about the destruction of relic sites due to the war as well. According to Hague Treaty of 1954, taking the relic sites as attacking targets is not permitted. The United States has signed this treaty but not yet has been ratified.

Recently, the archeologists visited the United States Department of Defense and delivered the map indicating the ancient relic sites within Iraq. They also strongly expressed, “since all of Iraq is considered as relic sites anyway, the damage of the cultural inheritances will be great no matter how carefully the United States attacks.” Accepting this kind of concern, the State Department of the United States has included the archeological field in the post war reconstruction plan of Iraq.

Moreover, the plunderers who will be active in their activities by taking advantage of the disorder of the war are problems as well. There had not been that many bombings on relic sites during the Gulf War but the plundering of the museums and the excavation sites were very serious.

The sculptures, which were at the ancient Assyria`s relic sites in the northern part of Iraq, have been smuggled outside of the country in pieces. Plunderers have transferred the relics in dump trucks even from the southern relic sites. One expert archeologist stated, “I`ve seen a diplomat`s car transferring the illegally plundered relics.”

Doctor John Malcolm Russell from the Massachusetts University of Arts warned, “The United States must not repeat its experience of providing a gold mind to the plunderers by not planning the cultural reconstruction.”

Seung-Jin Kim sarafina@donga.com