McGuire Gibson and Prospects in Iraq Jan 20, 2012 10:38:41 GMT -5
Post by us4-he2-gal2 on Jan 20, 2012 10:38:41 GMT -5
Hey all -
I'm reporting on a talk given by McGuire Gibson to a Toronto audience on Jan. 18 2012. Gibson of course has been a very important Mesopotamian Archaeologist and one who dug both Kish and Nippur. He has held the position of professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology at Chicago since 1980 - more at U of Chicago website.
Gibson's talk was focused on the tragedy of the Iraq looting in 2003 and on the prospects for future digs in that country. Because he himself was part of the UNESCO / National Geographic team that went in to document the damage about a month after the invasion started, he had of course very vivid impressions and details. Since we are fairly aware here of the depressing details of the looting of the Baghdad Museum I won't get in to that too much.
A much smaller portion of Gibson's talk was directed at the prospects for digs within Iraq in the next few years. Of course since the war it has been impossible to dig in Iraq. That doesn't mean the state of the sites there has just remained the same - Gibson explained that before the Gulf war in 1991, looting by Iraqi natives was infrequent and of fairly insubstantial in terms of damage to sites overall.. however following the first American invasion in 1991, the influence Iraqi antiquities authorities was reduced to just about nothing and they were unable to continue policing the sites even haphazardly. Apparently there have been up to 1500 armed persons assigned with the task of guarding ancient mounds since the war - but with the collapse of the government, logistical problems such as having no fuel for their trucks and so on has prevented guards from acting for the most part.
So the number of holes being driven through sites has increased dramatically in those famous sites dug by Europeans and Americans in particular, and it's gotten much worse since 2003. According to Gibson the sites of Umma and Adab (I think he said Isin as well, and a number of others) have been "completely destroyed" . All of these targeted looting jobs, as well as the some of the precision looting done in the Iraq museum, he blames on a trade organization working out of London and Beirut - from there, people are inciting the Iraqi looters to target specific sites in order to supply the international black market on these items. (Much more information about looting patterns available here
But on the up side, several Western Archaeologists have recently been granted permission to dig in southern Iraq, and I think this is the first time since the 2003 war. Elizabeth Stone and D'Agostino (sp?) have been granted permission by Iraqi authorities to dig a mound in ancient Iraq - ancient name unknown currently. Robert Killik and Jane Moon who apparently dug in Bahrain throughout the 90s have recieved permission to dig Ur itself - the advantage to digging Ur is that the American airbase nearby provides an umbrella of protection over the site itself . And additionally, one of Gibson's own students, Carrie Hritz (personal page here has recieved permission to dig Girsu "this summer" .
So hopefully the opening up of the south for modern digs will continue and world heritage/scholarship will start gaining Iraqi items instead of losing them for the first time in decades. But the whole thing is very precarious and Gibson repeats numerous times that it all depends on whether or not the scene stabilizes in the next year or not.