US secretary of state John Kerry will be on-hand later today to highlight the destruction of Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage by violent extremist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq (IS) and the Syrian regime.
Alongside the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell and its president Emily Rafferty, Kerry will present the US’s case for protection of cultural elements in Iraq and Syria, which are in danger thanks to ongoing attempts by IS to deliberately target and destroy heritage sites in Iraq, while warring Syria’s heritage sites have been the target of deliberate shelling and general chaos in the last couple of years. Read more.
Despite the troubles plaguing Iraq, The Baghdad Archaeological Museum has reopened to the public. The museum which only offered limited access to academics was established with the help of the British author Gertrude Bell in 1926. In the 1920s the Museum was under the Ministry of Public Works while under the Ministry of Education in the 1930s. Its collections are considered among the most important in the world and the Museum has traditionally exhibited collections featuring the 5,000 year long history of Mesopotamia in its 28 galleries.
The original buildings (Old Museum building, Administration Building, Library, and Old Storage Building) were built on the present site with the help of the German Government in 1964-1966 and opened in 1966. The New Museum Building was built by the Italian Government in 1983. The newest building, the New Collections Building, was built by Kortage Construction in 2006 sponsored by the Iraqi Government. Read more.
An archaeology museum in Philadelphia has made an extraordinary find—in its own storage rooms.
The Penn Museum, part of the University of Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that it had rediscovered a 6,500-year-old human skeleton believed to have been a man at least 50 who stood 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall. The remains were originally excavated from southern Iraq around 1930.
Museum officials said the complete human skeleton had been stored in a coffin-like box but with no trace of identifying documentation.
Skeletons of the same time period, particularly complete remains, are extremely rare, the Penn researchers said. They hope a skeletal analysis will reveal more about the population’s diet, stresses and ancestral origins. Read more.
Life-size human statues and column bases from a long-lost temple dedicated to a supreme god have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
The discoveries date back over 2,500 years to the Iron Age, a time period when several groups — such as the Urartians, Assyrians and Scythians — vied for supremacy over what is now northern Iraq.
"I didn’t do excavation, just archaeological soundings —the villagers uncovered these materials accidentally," said Dlshad Marf Zamua, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who began the fieldwork in 2005. Read more.
An ancient temple that featured in the film The Exorcist has fallen into the hands of jihadists who have taken over northern Iraq.
The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra, a vast network of 70-metre sun-god temples that is a UNESCO world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic.
It now lies in the territory claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), prompting fears that its stone statues could be destroyed as idolatrous images by the terrorists.
Already, ISIS fighters in the city of Mosul, 100 kilometres north-west of Hatra, have demolished a statue of Othman Al-Mousuli, a 19th-century Iraqi musician and composer, and a statue of Abu Tammam, an Abbasid-era Arab poet. Read more.
An enigmatic box from a bygone era, filled with pottery, seeds and animal bones, has been discovered in the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. The box was found while researchers were emptying current laboratory spaces in preparation for the installation of a new state-of-the-art radiocarbon dating facility.
Index cards nestled amongst the objects in the box provided a clue to the origins of the material. Key words such as ‘Predynastic’, ‘Sargonid’, and ‘Royal Tombs’ suggested the remains came from the famous excavations by Sir Leonard Woolley in southern Iraq at the site of Ur during the 1920s and early 1930s.
The discovery is very exciting because environmental finds were rarely collected in this early period of archaeological fieldwork, especially from this part of the world. Read more.
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.