UNESCO report on condition of Babylon site shows need for US funded restoration effort

Edwin Yamauchi [Professor Emeritus, History Department, Miami University; president, Near East Archaeological Society]: "Without question Babylon, the capital city of Hammurabi (18th cent. B.C.) and of Nebuchadnezzar (6th cent. B.C.), which appears prominently in both the Old Testament and in classical sources, was one of the greatest cities of antiquity. Excavated by Robert Koldewey (1899-1913), it has yielded outstanding monuments such as the Ishtar Gate (now recreated in Berlin). Its site was unfortunately damaged, first by Sadam Hussein's grandiose plans to make it a tourist mecca, then even more so by the building of a base (Camp Alpha) in 2003-2004 by the American army.

A detailed description of the damages to the site was released on June 26 by a committee of distinguished scholars including J. Curtis, J. Russell and E. Stone. The building of the military installation caused direct and indirect damage through much of the site. Though the report [PDF file] does not say so, in hindsight the insensitive and unnecessary disregard for the preservation of such an extraordinary site was an outrageous assault on Iraq's most important ancient city.

The report concludes with six recommendations, which should all be followed including: "The provisions of the Iraqi Antiquity laws should be observed on the stie of Babylon," and "All activities should be undertaken with a view to the nomination of Babylon for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List."

I would add a seventh: That the United States offer funds to repair the site to make amends for our failure to safeguard the integrity of this most important city."

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