Looting and destruction of Iraqi archaeological sites has been going on for years. Saddam Hussein’s government did a lot to damage sites, building reconstructions right on top of the research-valuable archaeological remains, and did plenty of other horrible and heinous things, but also did a lot to stave off looting, through, basically, iron fisted law enforcement. The Americans then rolled in seven years ago, eliminated Saddam and basically invited the looters in. Despite pleading from the American archaeological scholarly community, and a well-drawn out plan for defending the country’s archaeological sites, not enough was done. Looters attacked and destroyed sites for material gain, and it went so far as to have a US military base built atop (or nearly atop) Babylon, tank treads and the spreading of asphalt and lord knows what else doing irreparable damage to the site.
About two and a half years ago, Iraq’s leading archaeologist declared that professional looters were no longer targeting sites in Iraq. Religious leaders had (finally) declared fatwas against those who would do damage to their own cultural heritage in this manner, and, I suppose, for all I know, the looting stopped.
Today, the New York Times offers a series of articles and videos about continuing conservation efforts at some of Iraq’s most major sites, along with efforts to attract more tourism. I know I won’t be going to Iraq any time soon myself, but…
*A Tour of Iraq’s Ancient Sites – including short videos about Babylon, and the Tomb of Ezekiel.