Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War

March, 2008

Lawrence Rothfield, Editor
AltaMira Press, 2008

As Saddam Hussein's government fell in April 2003, news accounts detailed the pillaging of from the Iraq Museum. The looting of nearly 15,000 items from the Museum's collection grabbed headlines and briefly focused international attention on Iraq's threatened cultural heritage and the efforts to recover missing items. Less dramatic, though far more devastating, has been the subsequent epidemic of looting at thousands of archaeological sites around the country. Illegal digging on a massive scale continues to this day. If unaddressed, the same fundamental deficiencies that left Iraq's museums and sites vulnerable to looters will threaten the cultural heritage of other politically unstable regions.

Antiquities under Siege examines the criminal activity that continues to erode the traces of Mesopotamian, Judeo-Christian and Islamic cultures buried in the desert of Iraq, and investigates the global implications of this ongoing catastrophe. This book demonstrates that the disasters that have befallen Iraq's cultural heritage in the wake of the US-led invasion are both the result of the general failures of postwar planning and specific shortcomings in U.S. and international cultural policies protecting cultural heritage sites and artifacts.

Its internationally renowned authors – experts in law, foreign affairs, archaeology and the military – provide first-hand accounts of the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and offer a series of recommendations for U.S. and international policymakers and NGOs. The authors identify new procedures and strategies that can protect artifacts at risk in future battles.

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