(CNN) — Babylon was one of the glories of the ancient world, its walls and mythic hanging gardens listed among the Seven Wonders.
Founded about 4,000 years ago, the ancient city was the capital of 10 dynasties in Mesopotamia, considered one of the earliest cradles of civilization and the birthplace of writing and literature.
But following years of plunder, neglect and conflict, the Babylon of today scarcely conjures that illustrious history.
In recent years, the Iraqi authorities have reopened Babylon to tourists, hoping that one day the site will draw visitors from all over the globe. But despite the site’s remarkable archaeological value and impressive views, it is drawing only a smattering of tourists, drawn by a curious mix of ancient and more recent history. Read more.
It served as an Ottoman headquarters, a prison, an ice factory and a mill before falling into neglect.
Now, Najaf’s historic and much-loved Khan al-Shilan is getting a new lease on life as a museum.
Local authorities in Najaf plan to turn the structure into a museum featuring antiquities and archaeological pieces as well as statues of rebels and some of the actual weapons they used in a 1920 Iraqi uprising against the British, during which captured soldiers were held at Khan al-Shilan.
In addition to its long history, Khan al-Shilan is significant due to the remains of drawings and dates left by the captive British soldiers, which are still visible on its walls. Read more.
The sound of hammers echoes from ancient brick as Iraqi workers battling damage done by wind, water, and modern history race to shore up the crumbing walls of Babylon.
If we don’t do something, in the next 10 years it will disappear completely,” says Thierry Grandin, a consultant to the World Monuments Fund overseeing workmen erecting wooden scaffolding to stabilize the 2,600-year-old north wall.
The capitol of the Babylonian empire, one of the wonders of the ancient world, has fallen on hard times.
Only a fraction of the 4,000-year-old site has been excavated but the ruins above ground have been eroded by wind and salt water, and damaged both by sweeping reconstruction ordered by former President Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and the more recent US military occupation. Read more.
MOSUL, Iraq — On land where Assyrian kings once reigned, an Iraqi farmer named Araf Khalaf surveyed the scrap of earth that has nurtured three generations of his family. It is little more than a mud hut and a scraggly vegetable patch, yet his land has become a battleground, one pitting efforts to preserve Iraq’s ancient treasures against the nation’s modern-day poor.
With violence ebbing, Iraqi and international archaeologists are again excavating and repairing the country’s historic sites. But they are running into a problem: thousands of Iraqis have taken up residence among the poorly guarded ruins of Mesopotamia, in illegally built homes and shops, greenhouses and garages. And they do not want to leave.
“My father grew up here,” Mr. Khalaf said. “This is our land.” Read more.
A trove of Jewish books and other materials, rescued from a sewage-filled Baghdad basement during the 2003 invasion, is now caught up in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Iraq.
Ranging from a medieval religious book to children’s Hebrew primers, from photos to Torah cases, the collection is testimony to a once vibrant Jewish community in Baghdad. Their present-day context is the relationship, fraught with distrust, between postwar Iraq and its Jewish diaspora.
Discovered in a basement used by Saddam Hussein’s secret police, the collection was sent to the U.S. for safekeeping and restoration, and sat at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland until last year, when Iraqi officials started a campaign to get it back.
Initially contacts went well, but now the deputy culture minister, Taher Naser al-Hmood, says “The Americans are not serious” about setting a deadline for getting back the archive. Read more.
UNESCO and the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization are working together to bring the life back to the ancient monument which is considered an archaeological and national treasure.
Located at the heart of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, the citadel is an archaeological treasure. One of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlement in the world. It boasts over 6,000 years of history and displays traces of numerous civilizations such as the Sumerian, Babylonian, Greek, Islamic and Ottoman.
To preserve and restore such a national treasure, the Kurdistan Regional Government created the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) in 2007. This measure should in the long run attract tourists from all over the world and contribute to the currently booming Kurdish economy. Read more.
The first non-Iraqi archaeological investigation of the Tigris-Euphrates delta in 20 years was a preliminary foray by three women who began to explore the links between wetland resources and the emergence and growth of cities last year.
“Foreign investigations in Iraq stopped in the 1990s,” said Carrie Hritz, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. “Iraqis continued research, but because their work is unpublished, we are unsure of where they surveyed.”
The marshlands in Iraq and Iran were drained between 1950 and the 1990s. While initial explanations were that Iraq needed the land for agricultural uses, more often than not, politics played a role. After the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein drained the areas between the Tigris and Euphrates to control and punish Shia dissidents among the Marsh Arabs. Read more.