April 14, 2008

 

The British Museum keeps fighting the good fight

Dr. John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Middle East department, has just written a fascinating, extensive account of his role in the efforts to help protect Iraq's archaeological heritage: "Who stole Iraq's priceless treasures?," in The Sunday Times of April 13. It is a must read. Mentioning a potential British Army effort to protect archaeological sites in the South, he ends thus:
This is a far cry from the attitude of the coalition forces in the build-up to the war. Then, the military authorities took no proper advice, but contented themselves with requesting lists of important sites (which could have been obtained from any one of a number of popular guidebooks). At the very least they should have been consulting closely with archeologists and other specialists familiar with Iraq, and at best they should have had archeologists and cultural-heritage experts embedded in the military, as they were in the second world war. In this way, some of the subsequent disasters could have been averted. Meanwhile, we are left with a situation in Iraq in which many top-quality museum objects have been stolen or damaged, and many prime archeological sites in the south of the country have been looted beyond repair, with the consequent loss of much priceless information about a cultural heritage that is the property of the whole world.

An article in The Guardian announces a planned Babylon exhibition at the British Museum. It promises not to shirk away from exposing the damage wrought by US and Coalition forces to this world-renown site. For more details on the Museum's efforts so far, including reports by Dr. Curtis on the condition of sites such as Ur and Babylon, see The British Museum and the crisis in Iraqi cultural heritage section of their website.



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