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Archaeoligists: Iraqi Dam Threatens City
ABC News via AP ^ | Feb. 3 2003 | AP Editorial Staff

Posted on 02/05/2003 6:34:50 AM PST by vannrox

Feb. 3

An Iraqi dam under construction on the Tigris River threatens to submerge the remains of the spiritual capital of the ancient Assyrian empire in an act archaeologists liken to flooding the Vatican.

Much of the city of Ashur, which thrived for more than 1,000 years until the Babylonians razed it in 614 B.C., could vanish under a lake to be created by the Makhoul dam, U.S. and European archaeologists said.

More than 60 outlying historical sites are also threatened.

Ashur, or Assur, was of such importance that it lent its name to the Assyrian civilization itself.

"Losing it would be like, I guess you could say, losing the Vatican," said Mark Altaweel, a Baghdad-born doctoral student at the University of Chicago who is using satellite data to study the ruins-rich region surrounding Ashur.

Ashur sits on a bluff about 130 feet above the Tigris between Mosul and Baghdad. Most of the city, including the lower portions most vulnerable to flooding, have never been explored in the century since the first archaeological teams visited the site.

The city was the spiritual center and trading hub of one of the world's first great empires that at its peak stretched from Egypt to Iran and northward into Turkey.

Estimates of how much of the city would be submerged vary from half to the entire site.

The dam, slated for completion by 2007, is the result of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, said John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.

Iraq has been pushing toward greater self-sufficiency in food production, which has led to the development of massive irrigation projects of which the dam is part, said Russell, an art historian and expert in ancient Assyria.

In the past, dam building projects have threatened other archaeological sites throughout the Middle East. Typically each case sparked an international salvage effort, most notably in Egypt, where the great temple of Ramses II and several other temples and colossal statues were moved to spare them from the lake created by the Aswan dam on the Nile.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is now assisting Iraq in assessing the Makhoul dam's impact on Ashur and what, if any, measures can be taken to prevent its destruction, said Giovanni Boccardi, chief of the UN organization's Arab states unit. A report detailing its recommendations has not yet been made public.

Iraq has also submitted a draft nomination to UNESCO to have Ashur named a world heritage site, which would add it to a list of 763 locations around the world, including China's Great Wall and the ruins of ancient Pompeii.

But a plan to protect and manage the site must be devised before that status can be granted.

"The possibility for the site to be inscribed on the list will obviously depend on our capacity to identify ways and means of ensuring the conservation of the outstanding universal value of Ashur," Boccardi said.

In Iraq, antiquities officials have dispatched 10 teams of archaeologists to the Ashur region, said Peter Miglus of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who last dug at the site in 2001. Since then, no international teams have been asked back.

"There has been no invitation issued, as they euphemistically call it, to rescue these sites," Russell said.

Overall, the situation for archaeology is not much better elsewhere in Iraq since the end of the Gulf War. Thousands of looted objects, including Assyrian reliefs purloined from museums and storehouses at archaeological sites, have appeared for sale at auction and on the Web.

"I have become so depressed by the flow I have stopped looking at eBay," Russell said.

Archaeologists, including members of the Archaeological Institute of America, fear the situation will worsen if there is war.

"It will be a mess if we go in again," said Samuel Paley, professor of classics at the State University of New York, Buffalo. "Who knows what will happen. You balance what we consider the political needs of today with the heritage of antiquity: What comes out on top?"

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Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancient; antiquities; antiquity; arab; archaeologist; archaeology; ashur; assur; assyria; assyrian; aswan; babylonian; babylonians; baghdad; capital; china; civilization; dam; egypt; empire; exciting; flooding; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; iran; iraqi; irrigation; miglus; mosul; past; pompeii; ramses; remains; river; ruins; scientific; site; submerge; tigris; turkey; vatican
This would be a real shame. I hope that the city of Ashur has been completely excivated. The cuniform tablets there are PRICELESS!
1 posted on 02/05/2003 6:34:50 AM PST by vannrox
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To: vannrox
There isn't any way that the entire city could be excavated. A horrible loss to archaeology and everlasting shame on those who don't care. It just makes me sick.
2 posted on 02/05/2003 6:57:36 AM PST by Lee Heggy (Missouri-Unreconstructed and proud of it!)
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To: Lee Heggy

Ashur</ h3>
Ashur, on the west bank of the Tigris River, was the religious capital of ancient Assyria. Ashur was also the name of the the country and the main deity. The city was founded around 2500 BCE (during Fourth Dynasty) by settlers from Syria or from the south. Although it was strategically weaker than Nimrud (modern Kalakh) and Nineveh, its importance as a religious center led to its being maintained until it was finally destroyed in 614 BCE by the Babylonians.

The inner city was encircled by walls with a total length of 4 kilometers. On the eastern side of the city, massive quays were built on the Tigris by king Adad- nirari I (ruled ca.1295-ca.1264 BCE; contemporary with Horemheb through Rameses II). On the northern side of the city a high escarpment looked down on an arm of the river, providing a natural defense. This was augmented with buttressed walls and a a sally port called the mushlalu, a semicircular rusticated stone masonry tower built by Sennacherib (ruled 704-681 BCE), probably the first of its kind. The weaker southern and western sides were protected by fortifications.

A catalog of the city's buildings at the time of Sennacherib included 34 temples, to such deities as Ashur-Enlil, Anu- Adad, Sin-Shamash, Ishtar, and Nabu. There have also been three palaces discovered at Ashur; the oldest, belonging to Shamsi-Adad (ruled ca.1813-ca.1781 BCE; Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty), was later used as a burial-ground. Many of the sprawling private homes in the northwestern section of the city featured family burial vaults beneath the floors. The irregular layout of the city shows the respect given to property rights and land tenure. A series of tablets dating from between 1450 and 1250 BCE (mid-Eighteenth to mid-Nineteenth Dynasties) reveal other aspects of Assyrian law, especially relating to women.

Although the city was nearly completely destroyed by the Babylonians in 614 BCE, part of it was reoccupied for a time around the Parthian conquest of Mesopotamia, in the middle of the 2nd century BCE.

3 posted on 02/05/2003 7:08:06 AM PST by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: vannrox
The dam, slated for completion by 2007, is the result of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, said John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.

say what now?

4 posted on 02/05/2003 7:18:20 AM PST by jz638
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To: vannrox
5 posted on 02/05/2003 7:24:55 AM PST by happygrl
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To: vannrox
What are the odds that this project may get interrupted?
6 posted on 02/05/2003 7:46:50 AM PST by expatpat
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To: vannrox
thanks for article and for the historical info that you is appreciated
7 posted on 02/05/2003 10:30:58 AM PST by ruoflaw
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Just updating the GGG information, not sending a general distribution.

Please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
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8 posted on 07/25/2005 9:06:52 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Down with Dhimmicrats! I last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
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9 posted on 03/14/2008 11:40:39 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ( updated Saturday, March 1, 2008)
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