Lamia al-Gailani pulls a folder of crumbling letters from a battered metal cabinet – part of what she considers the secret treasures of the Iraq Museum.
The cabinets hold archives from the beginnings of the venerable institution, established after World War I by Gertrude Bell, the famed British administrator, writer, and explorer. Hundreds of thousands of documents and photographs, neglected until now, hold the untold story of an emerging nation whose borders “Miss Bell” helped to draw.
“Wonderful isn’t it?” says Ms. Gailani, an archaeologist. She pulls out photographs of the Iraq pavilion at the 1938 Paris Expo and a yellowing, typewritten letter from 1921 confirming the appointment of Bell as honorary museum director. “People probably thought these archives don’t exist. These are treasures that no one knows about.” Read more.
Ur’s palaces and temples lie in ruins, but its hulking Ziggurat still dominates the desert flatlands of what is now southern Iraq, as it has for millennia.
Climbing the Ziggurat’s baked-brick stairway to its wind-scoured summit, you gaze over the royal cemetery excavated 90 years ago by Leonard Woolley, a Briton who recovered treasures rivalling those found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt in 1924.
Very little work has been done here since, but British archaeologists are now back in the area despite the insecurity in Iraq that had kept them - and all but the most adventurous tourists - away from one of the world’s oldest cities. Read more.
Cornell University is preparing to forfeit to Iraq a vast collection of ancient cuneiform tablets in what is expected to be one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.
The 10,000 inscribed clay blocks date from the 4th millenium BC and offer scholars an unmatched record of daily life in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.
New York antiquities collector Jonathan Rosen and his family began donating and lending the tablets to Cornell in 2000. Many scholars have objected to the arrangement, suspecting the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which unleashed a wave of plundering in the archaeologically rich expanse of southern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Read more.
Destroyed in the 90s relief in Gunduk, Iraq, dating from the mid-third millennium BC was, it seemed, lost to science. A few weeks ago, archaeologists from Poznań found relief fragments of which now will go to the museum in Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"The reliefs were apparently destroyed in 1996. Group of treasure hunters from Turkey placed an explosive charge, the detonation of which was to open the way to treasures hidden behind the relief - explained Prof. Rafał Koliński of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. - Of course, there was no treasure. The damage, however, is enormous".
He added that from the first panel only the front part of ibex and spear presentation survived. The second relief was completely destroyed, and only the third escaped this fate, perhaps because - the scientist believes - it was carved at a distance from the first two presentations. Read more.
In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq archaeologists have discovered an ancient city called Idu, hidden beneath a mound.
Cuneiform inscriptions and works of art reveal the palaces that flourished in the city throughout its history thousands of years ago.
Located in a valley on the northern bank of the lower Zab River, the city’s remains are now part of a mound created by human occupation called a tell, which rises about 32 feet (10 meters) above the surrounding plain. The earliest remains date back to Neolithic times, when farming first appeared in the Middle East, and a modern-day village called Satu Qala now lies on top of the tell. Read more.
The second season of archaeological research in Iraqi Kurdistan, led by Prof. Rafał Koliński from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, has begun.
The aim of the project is an inventory of archaeological sites located in the 3 000 sq km area on both banks of the Great Zab river in the plains lying at the foot of the mountain ranges of Kurdistan. During the first season, researchers found 37 sites from the period between 6500 BC and 17th century AD.
"Last year’s activities covered the mountainous part of the area, where settlements were scattered. This year we will explore the fertile plain in the western part of the area covered by the concession. Read more.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry on Saturday (July 13th) said it has assigned some 12,000 security personnel to protect the country’s archaeological sites against terrorist attacks, theft and unauthorized excavation.
Around 5,400 archaeological sites dating back to various historical eras were placed under security protection after police received information such sites might be exposed to terrorist attacks or be used as shelter for terrorists, said Col. Hikmat Mahmoud al-Masari, director of media and communications at the ministry.
The sites have been fully secured by police units, backed by surveillance cameras, he told Al-Shorfa. (source)
Discovering my first Neanderthal skeleton in Iraq’s Shanidar Cave in the spring of 1957 took my breath away.
Archaeology is a time-consuming, labor-intensive science, so when you find remains in a former residential space dating back 40,000 years, you start to imagine what life must have been like then and how anyone could have survived for long.
In 1950, I was a graduate student at Columbia University. As part of my thesis, I began to explore caves in the Middle East in search of an ideal excavation site.
When I arrived in Iraq’s Greater Zab valley in 1950, locals suggested I hike an hour up to the Shanidar Cave. The interior was as spacious as a single-family house—roughly 3,000 square feet with a 20-foot ceiling. Read more.