A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
An extraordinary heritage is now at risk
Archaeologists and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) are actively involved in one of the most important issues of the day--the protection of the archaeological and cultural heritage of Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) during and after a possible war. A few months ago my predecessor, Nancy Wilkie, wrote on this page about the AIA resolution passed in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War ("In the Shadow of War," January/February 2003). As this magazine went to press, the AIA's Executive Committee unanimously endorsed the following Open Declaration on Cultural Heritage at Risk in Iraq:
The Declaration, published in the journal Science on March 21, 2003, mobilizes the international archaeological community and has been signed by some of the most prestigious institutions and scholars specializing in Mesopotamian archaeology. A particular concern the Declaration addresses is the necessity, in the rebuilding phase following any armed conflict, of enforcing Iraq's current strong antiquities law. "Iraq has an excellent antiquities law and an administrative structure that only needs to be brought back to full strength to be effective," says Malcolm Bell, Vice President for Professional Responsibilities of the AIA. "It is important for everyone to endorse the existing antiquities administration, which in the past provided the necessary protection and can do so again." Ancient Mesopotamia gave the world many of the hallmarks of civilization including some of the first cities, writing, monumental art and architecture, and organized religion. Iraq's cultural heritage is of value to all of us, and the Open Declaration is a call for the world's governments to protect and preserve it.
For more information on efforts to preserve Iraq's cultural heritage and a list of signatories to the declaration, visit the AIA's website. See "Protecting Iraq's Ancient Heritage" for more on the looting of Iraqi sites following the Gulf War.
Jane C. Waldbaum is the president of the Archaeological Institute of America.