Monday, 21 September 2009

"Brutal Destruction Of Iraq's Archaeological Sites"

Journalist Diane Tucker has a piece in the Huffington Post (Sept 21) called Brutal Destruction Of Iraq's Archaeological Sites Continues which largely sums up (with a shocking slideshow) the issues to keep them in the public eye. She reminds readers of the museum looting, of antiquities which "have illegally made their way to the lucrative antiquities markets of London, Geneva, and New York" the indiscriminate (she calls it "reckless") digging into archaeological sites to get more. Then there is the US base at Babylon and then a dig at the Rumsfeld Doctrine which was responsible for not having enough troops in the newly invaded country to establish law and order from the outset which was the source of many of the country's subsequent problems. Of the archaeological sites damaged she singles out Umm al-Aqarib, which "has been completely picked over by looters. Many of the illicit digs were massive efforts carried out by organized teams with backhoes and bulldozers, some financed by foreign operations".
While it is good that articles like this keep the issue of exploitation of the archaeological record to supply the no-questions-asked market with illicit antiquities in the public eye, one wishes these stories were assigned to journalists who have a little bit more insight into the difference between archaeology and the antiquities trade and who would not write that the aim of researchers is to:"assemble a mosaic of meaning from the shards of ancient art left buried in the ground". It was not just "ancient art" buried in the now-destroyed stratigraphy of those sites.

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