Preserving Babylon

Christopher Torchia and Ammar Al-Musawi have an interesting article for the AP on UNESCO efforts to rescue the ancient city of Babylon.

Now, for the first time, global institutions led by the U.N. are thoroughly documenting the damage and how to fix it. A UNESCO report due out early next year will cite Saddam’s construction but focus, at the Iraqi government’s request, on damage done by U.S. forces from April to September 2003, and the Polish troops deployed there for more than a year afterward.

The U.S., which turned Babylon into a military base, says the looting would have been worse but for the troops’ presence. The U.S. also says it will help rehabilitate Babylon, funding an effort by the World Monuments Fund and Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, but has yet to release precise funding figures.

Archaeologists hope the effort will lead someday to new digging to follow up on the excavations done by a German team in the early 1900s.

“The site is tremendously important,” said Gaetano Palumbo of the New York City-based World Monuments Fund. Yet in its present state, Babylon is “hardly understandable, as a place where so much happened in history.”

The damage at Babylon is a tragedy, but hopefully the damage done can be reversed and the site can be protected and preserved for enjoyment and study. Perhaps the slew of Babylon-centered exhibits and books detailed by the Art Newspaper will help to raise awareness.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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