Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Archaeologists!!

Its great that archeologists are taking a preemptive stance against the possible idiocy of bombing Iran (from New Scientist):
PERSEPOLIS, once the capital of the Persian empire, and the massive mud-brick Bam citadel are among the nine listed World Heritage Sites in Iran. Yet leading archaeologists are urging colleagues to refuse any military requests to draw up a list of Iranian sites that should be exempted from air strikes.

"Such advice would provide cultural credibility and respectability to the military action," said a resolution agreed by the World Archaeological Congress in Dublin, Ireland, last week. Instead, delegates were advised to emphasise the harm that any military action would do to Iran's people and heritage.

And not that it matters much even when they cooperate:

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, bombing damaged important monuments, including the Al-Zohur Palace in Baghdad, and museums and archaeological sites were later looted - even though archaeologists had been consulted in advance. "If these archaeologists had little impact in terms of saving even the few selected archaeological sites listed, what did they achieve?" asks Yannis Hamilakis of the University of Southampton, UK.

4 comments:

Marina said...

Part of the problem, at least in Iran, is that the government itself does not necessarily want to preserve Iran's heritage, especially pre-Islamic monuments. Without government support and protection, would the archaeologists be doing anything more than making a list of "cool places to loot"?

But on the other hand, how well do you think any potential bombers would take Iran saying "no, no, no. our whole country is a heritage site. don't bomb anything!" No matter how true that is.

Salman Hameed said...

But these are not Iranian archaeologists (at least not all). The resolution is coming from the World Archaeological Congress, that took place in Dublin. So its not Iran saying that Iran has heritage sites - but rather its coming from the archaeological community.

Your first comment about Iran not preserving pre-Islamic sites - I don't know much about it. In more likelihood, as it happens in almost all developing countries, none of the heritage sites are being kept properly because of lack of funds and expertise. If UNESCO or some other body steps in, then those sites get relatively well preserved. In Pakistan, for example, even many of the Moghul buildings are in terrible shape - but that is more because of limited budget and available expertise. The sites of Indus Valley civilization (about 5000 years old), however, are better preserved because of the interest of international archaeologists. Taliban on the other hand, went out of their way to destroy the statues of Buddha. As far as I know, Iranians are no where as crazy.

Tom Rees said...

The damage in Iraq came not so much from the direct effect of bombing, but from the anarchy that has followed.

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