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One hundred guards for 1,200 archaeological sites in southern Iraqi province

By Basem al-Rikabi

Azzaman, September 14, 2010

Smuggling and illegal digging of ancient Mesopotamian sites is going on uninterrupted in the southern Iraqi Province of Dhi Qar, Iraq’s richest in archaeological treasures, according to the provincial antiquities chief.

Archaeologist Amer Abdulrazzaq says he is given the task of looking after 1,200 archaeologically significant sites in the province and he only has 100 guards.

The province of which the city of Nasiriyah is the capital is home to Ur, whose magnificent remains and debris used to tell the story of one of the world’s best known ancient nations, the Sumerians, who invented writing and the world’s first system of civil government.

In Dhi Qar are two of the best preserved Mesopotamian ziqqurats (terraced temples) in the world.

But Abdulrazzaq says illegal diggers and smugglers have done much harm to the archaeology of the province.

U.S. occupation troops had camped for years in Ur and turned its debris into military barracks.

Abdulrazzaq says with the 2003-U.S. invasion, the country lost control not only of the treasures in its museums but also of thousands of ancient sites.

In the years since then, smuggling gangs and illegal digging teams have become much more sophisticated and hard to pin down, he says.

According to some estimates there are more Mesopotamian artifacts unaccounted for than the volume of treasures in Iraq Museum, one of the world’s richest.

The spot market in Mesopotamian pieces is growing in Iraq and smuggled or illegally dug artifacts are often openly displayed in shops.







:: Article nr. 69791 sent on 16-sep-2010 04:30 ECT

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