Photo exhibit in London features Iraqi cultural sites





Once they were the pride of ancient civilisations: mighty cities, fortresses, temples and ziggurats. But time, weather and man have left them in ruins.

Now their glory can be seen in aerial photographs which go on display at the British Museum next month.

The show, The Past from Above, demonstrates, like Shelley's poem Ozymandias ? "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains" ? the impermanence of man's labour. The damage caused by nature, dams, treasure-hunters, farming, mass tourism and wreckers is evident in many of the images, says Lesley Fitton, co-curator of the exhibition.

The photographs of sites in Iraq, such as the Temple of Gareus, the ziggurat at Ur and the 11th century fortress Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta, may be the last, most complete views of the ruins. Archaeologists fear bombing or looting may have caused serious damage.

A photograph taken in 1973 of the huts of marsh dwellers in Iraq is an historic view. The settlement was destroyed when Saddam Hussein diverted the Euphrates after an uprising after the Kuwait war. The 100-plus pictures are by the Swiss photographer Georg Gerster.

Images range from Greek and Roman remains; sand dunes covering the 13th century Qalat-I Gird round fortress in Iran; pyramids, Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia; native Indian settlements in north America; Inca and Aztec temples in south America; ancient settlements in Africa; and a surprisingly large number of views of Britain, among them, Maiden Castle in Dorset and the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire.
# The Past from Above, Nov 16 to Feb 11.

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