Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Robbing the cradle (of civilization).

Today in class you saw a few images of important sites in Mesopotamia, particularly examples of architecture in present day Iraq. This entire area is of extreme archeological and historical importance; it has more than 10,000 archeological sites to date. There are estimates by archeologists that another half million sites are still there waiting to be found.

The ziggurats I showed in class today are examples that barely scratch the surface of the important sites found in Iraq. For example, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and possible Garden of Eden), Nimrud, the Arch of Ctesiphon (the largest arch in the ancient world), Tall Harmal, and Nippur to name just a few. Drawing of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon


Cuneiform tablets are still being found around the region, with many of the tablets previously discovered still not translated. These tablets offer incredible insight into the daily lives of ancient people; they cover everything from various types of transactions to food growing and preparation tips.

Iraq is sometimes referred to as the “cradle of civilization” because urbanization, organized religion, imperialism, the first written language, the first major work of literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh), and many inventions such as the wheel and the plow were developed in this area.

History in peril?

“As a famous general once said, 'war is hell' and if it's staged in Iraq — the land where advanced cultures first flourished — archaeologists fear it could also wreak havoc on history.” Source


There have been many stories in the news about the consequences of the war in Iraq, including Halliburton “destroying” Babylon and the looting of various sites in the area. While there is plenty of blame to go around—such as American troops destroying part of a the ziggurat at Ur (and possibly looting it), Iraqi’s looting sites and selling artifacts on the black market, the almost total destruction of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad by looters, and the collateral damage being done to architecture by the many explosion in the region—steps are now being taken by both sides to prevent further destruction.

I do not want anyone playing the blame game with this post, but I would ask you the following:

Has the area had a history of war/looting or is this a new problem?

Why are these sites important to us today?

What can be done to save or at least fully document these sites before they are desecrated?

What has already been damaged or lost in this region?

Is it important to YOU that these places get the protection archeologists think they need?

There is a ton of information online about this topic, show me what you can find!

Comments for this post are due Monday 9/17/07.


19 comments:

big bad teacher said...

I apologize for the late post. Insight decided Monday would be a good day to sabotage my internet.

artperson said...

Well in a country torn by war and an apparent lack of respect for human life, it is kind of difficult to visit these sites. This also doesn't help with preserving these ancient sites. These sites are important to us because they offer insight into some of the early settlers and the way they lived. One thing that makes me wonder is how they built their immense ziggurats and developed the cuniform language. Also what the hell happened to all of these immense eastern empires? I found one theory here: http://www.learner.org/interactives/collapse/mesopotamia.html
Seeing how these people made so many advancements in an early time I think it is very important we do what we can to preserve mesopotamia. There is some more early works at the metropolitan museum of art here-->http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/First_Cities/firstcities_main.htm

nwalker said...

I think that it is very important to make sure that our troops do what they can to preserve those ancient Mesopotamia and the many other artifacts,temples, and buildings because after reading the site that I found Iraq is a very important country. It said that "No other places in the Bible except for Israel have more history and prophecy associated with them than Babylonia, Shinar, and Mesopotamia."Their people first began to get into philosophy and religion, developed the skill of writing and concept of trade,made beautiful structures, and developed the skill of writing. That there just tells you how special Iraq really is to us history wise.

http://www.albionmonitor.com/0510a/iraqheritage.html

Charlie said...

Since the days of the Sumerians, parts of Iraq have been fought over. The area is said to be some of the most fought over land in the world. If all of the sites are destroyed, and we have no way to look back into the past, there is no way to see what may lie ahead of us in the future. We will also never know where some of the traditions and cultures people have today came from. The Iraq museum has been looted, and the National Library has been burnt. If war continues to destroy Iraq, we will never be able to recover these important documents, and works of art. More information about the history of Iraq and war in Iraq can be found here >http://en.wikipediea.org/wiki/History_of_Iraq<

RetroClide said...

Sadly, a good chunk of ancient Iraqi art that was housed in Iraq is gone. Though the article is from 2005, the information contained in it is timely, http://www.usatoday.com/life/2005-11-02-iraq-art_x.htm. Iraqi art is probably going to be the present day Elgin Marbles. The recovery process for these works of art is going to take decades. Once the art is recovered, there are going to be problems with returning the art to Iraq. In a way, it's a mixed blessing. It's good that the art is being preserved. It's unfortunate that the art is being preserved on the black market.

VictorVonDoom said...

"The looting of clay tablets already mentioned may have even more depressing consequences. From these tablets have come such priceless documents as the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world's
oldest stories and provider of an alternative account of the great
Flood. Such a legacy has been invaluable in our understanding of the background to the Bible and thus the West's entire religious heritage"
http://groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.iraq/browse_thread/thread/3f37ab1240e0c928/f6e2e0e66f46f94b?lnk=st&q=art+history+mesopotamian&rnum=41&hl=en

I think it is important for us, as people interested in art, to take a stand and try to help and protect the art that is still over in the middle east

tnap said...

Iraq and it's ancient architecture and art is very, very important. In fact, Dan Cruickshank, who visited Iraq, has said that it is "the very crucible of civilization." The Mesopotamians who inhabited present day Iraq are thought to have invented astronomy, bleaching and dying, cobblestone streets, city building, legal systems, urban plumbing, and beer. (just to name a few) If we already know this much about Mesopotamia and it's civilization, think about how much more might be floating around in Iraq.

exquisitedesign said...

When I did a paper on Mesopotamia, we focused on many aspects of the region, including how they used their natural resources to build houses out of mud brick, furniture, etc. They relied heavily on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for their crops, so not only do they need to protect the historical sites, they also need to take care of the valuable land that they have. Because of the looting that has been going on now and in the past, it is probably fairly difficult to see their constuction methods of everyday objects, including homes. I found this website that tells the story of Mesopotamia through time, gods and godesses, geography, and writing. What's amazing is what the cuneiform language actually reveals. They have found traces of the language relating to business, trade, and taxes. Needless to say, if the destruction of these artifacts and others continues, we will never truly know about the Mesopotamian civilization, and we need to do what we can to preserve it.

http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/menu.html

luke said...

The sites are important to us today because they are famous. Trying not to speak for others, but to go and visit these sites in Iraq makes people feel important and more intelligent (because of the history you learn)...but is it really that important to us now?? to see sites that were built so long ago? I agree that the sites should be preserved, not destroyed etc. but we shouldn't let the destroying of Iraq sites totally put an end to our future. The people of the past had their important sites, places and buildings. Now we have our important buildings. What is really important, is now. But no more damaging things from the past! I hope you get my point

Marc said...

The numerous conflicts that engulfed this region throughout time have probably accounted for more damage than anything that has occurred in recent history. It was conquered by the Persians, the Greeks, and surrounding cultures and this only before the 7th century. It isn't particularly important to me that these sites get the protection that archaeologists think they need, seeing as there are bigger world issues that require attention in that area.

Anonymous said...

Be glad an archeologist before your time did think these sites were important, that they should be protected and studied, or you wouldn't know so much about them today....

aydin1107 said...

It seems that not only is looting going on today, but it has been going on for quite some time. Prior to WW1, the Ottomans were letting the artifacts be removed by other countries. Then they decided they need to have a piece of this history also. Following this the invasion of Kuwait, and now the ongoing Iraqui war. This doesn't sound like a new issue for this country. Unfortunately, this has been going on for a long time. I wonder if I ever get the chance to visit there, will there be anything left to see? Or will I have to travel to places like the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, the British Museum, or the Louvre to see these great works of art. If they haven't all been torn apart and sold on black markets by the citizens of Iraq.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_5_112/ai_102275158

jpayne said...

"URBANISM, ARCHITECTURE, AND THE USE OF SPACE

Iraq's economy was once based on agriculture, which stipulated a large rural population. However, due to oil production, an economic boom hit Iraq in the 1970s, and with the change of economic basis, much of population migrated toward urban centers. Modern apartment and office buildings sprang up in Baghdad, and programs and services such as education and health care developed with the shift from rural areas to urban population centers. In addition to modernization, the influx of monetary resources allowed Iraq to do things for its cultural identity and preservation, especially in architecture. High priority was placed on restoring and building according to historic style, and the structures targeted included archaeological sites, mosques, and government buildings. Some of the traditional aspects of the architecture include rooms surrounding an open center or courtyard, and use of multiple colors, tiles, and arches."

http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Iraq.html

The quote above gives you an idea of what happened that led to the creation of the buildings we speak of today. I think that the architecture in Iraq is not only important because of the history behind it that we can learn about, but also becuase of our present and our future. Looking at the sites today, you realize how much time and labor had to be put into making the massive structures. (some of which took the lifetime of many men to build!) Knowing how much was put into building such structures tells you that they were of great importance back then, so they should be kept that way. It is very important to preserve these sites because they are a big key to what is was like back then. Like they always say, history repeats itself. So if we dont know what has happened in the past or what it was like, how will we know what may lie ahead down the road for us?

Anonymous said...

Indeed Iraq is the "Cradle of civilization" sadly today most of the ancient artistic and historic legacy of many artifacts and places has been destroyed or severally damaged by war, thefts and much more, many art and ancient places in Iraq are still in grave danger with the war and bomb treats.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=978050

bigbadteacher said...

This post has been graded.

kaitlin said...

Just as recent as three years ago there has been looting in the cradel of civilization. There were 170,000 valuable artifacts stolen out of a museum. Some of these artifacts have been found but they are not in good shape. The head interpol stated that a 4,000 year old ziggurat is hard to keep secuure. there doesn't seem to be much respect for the pieces of history we find in Iraq. There have been many stories about temple cave ceilings caving in, which makes us wonder how we could be so careless. I see that there is a ton of information that we can gain about ancient cultures if we can learn to keep these places and objects safe. We have very important pieces of art, but don't treat it like it is.
http://www.elginism.com/20060120/308/

James A. said...

Although the looting and bombings in this are is unfortunate its nothing new and not of up most importance. Yes it would be nice if we could learn more about these ancient cultures but people always are looking to the past for answers the future, and most fo the time these findings hold no meaning other than understanding what life was like back then. Take the mayans and there calender. People are getting all worked up about predictions made by the mayans and how the world will end (around 2012). Although there calander system is extremely fascinating and impressive, it holds no real value for civilization in the present and future.

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