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.
At ancient Babylon’s Ishtar Gate, Iraqi workers labor with a heavy saw, hammers, a chisel and crowbar to break up and remove a concrete slab that is hastening the structure’s decay.
The concrete lies between the two long, towering walls of tan bricks decorated with processions of bulls and dragons that make up the more than 2,500-year-old Ishtar Gate, in what is now Iraq’s Babil province. The masonry slab was laid during the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Removing the concrete is deemed essential to preserving the Ishtar Gate at Babylon, which also served as the base for a later gate of the same name, the reassembled remains of which are now located in Germany. Read more.
Many ancient artefacts were plundered in Iraq during the most recent conflicts, with many turning up in collections in other countries. A decade ago, the UN urged its members to return any of these stolen pieces of Iraq’s heritage and thousands have found they way back.
However, the items in the collection of the National Museum in Helsinki are not these types of plundered archaeological artefacts.
In April, the Director General Helena Edgren at National Museum of Finland received a letter from the Iraqi Embassy in Helsinki in which the Ambassador presented a request for the return of six items.
The unusual request led to a thorough investigation of how the artefacts came into the museum’s collection that included information from records at the Office of the President and the Urho Kekkonen Museum. Read more.