Murder, mayhem and museums
British soldiers withdrew from the palace compound in September 2007. Now, the building itself is deserted, and I have to wait for an Iraqi police colonel to turn up with the key.
In his mind's eye, John Curtis, keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum, can already see the site transformed into a museum for Basra's many ancient treasures. Before I left for Basra, I met him in the British Museum's rooms full of Assyrian wall reliefs, and had just enough time to marvel at the exhibition on ancient Babylon, a place not far from today's Basra.
Just a few years ago, the very idea of a new museum in Basra would have been laughable. The focus was on security, and reconstructing the essentials of daily life, such as a working sewage system. Those projects are still not complete, but more than five years on, Basra is indeed a place transformed, with British forces looking to withdraw from the region altogether by the end of July.
Basra's collection of antiquities have survived somewhat against the odds. The city's old museum was ransacked during the first Gulf War of 1991, and its valuable collection of vases, terracotta and stone figures, bronze weapons, jewellery and cuneiform-inscribed clay tablets, were moved to the capital, where they were locked in a vault. That's how they escaped the 2003 looting.
comments powered by Disqus
- OAH issues a statement in support of the AP standards
- Daniel Pipes says in interview that the absence of anti-Israel protests in Muslim countries is highly significant
- A historian who studies China has discovered an overlooked angle in the debate about the Middle East. Could he have figured out a key reason for Iraq’s failure to defeat ISIS?
- American Historical Association backs revision of the AP course in history
- Middle East Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions