Thursday, July 3, 2008

Iraqi Cultural Heritage: "to protect and preserve"

The invasion of Iraq has had its consequences: humanitarian, social, political, and economic. (A flavour of the situation can be gained from the excellent Revolution Day: the Human Story of the Battle for Iraq [2004] by the former BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar.)

Looting Matters has tried to confine itself to issues of cultural property and archaeological ethics. Over Iraq I would endorse the British Museum's official statement (read again today), that there is,
a pressing need for action to protect and preserve the Iraqi cultural heritage.
The statement continues:
The problem is multi-faceted. It is not just about the looting of the major museums, particularly Baghdad and Mosul, but the destruction of libraries and archives, the damage to historic buildings, the extensive looting of archaeological sites, the illicit trade in antiquities, and now the undermining of the higher education system.
A recent report in The Art Newspaper has stirred up a hornets' nest. It is has been pointed out that the 8 sites discussed in AN are not representative of the whole of southern Iraq let alone the whole country. Larry Rothfield has now expanded ("Sites in Iraq Not Looted? Get Real!") on his earlier comments ("No Recent Looting on 8 Sites in southern Iraq: What does it show us? Not what the Art Newspaper thinks it does") about the evidence for looting in Iraq.

If we care about our universal cultural heritage ("cosmopolitanism" so beloved by some cultural property commentators) then it is worth giving some time to reflect on the state of damage to archaeological sites in Iraq. Culture matters.

Image © David Gill.

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