Archaeological Digs Continue despite Security Chaos

Abdul Razzaq said some concerns should be addressed, explaining, “Although there are some 1,200 archaeological sites in many areas of the province, there are no more than 100 guards. This tempts thieves to conduct illegal digs.”

On the positive side, there are a lot of on-site excavation activities. According to Ajyal al-Moussawi, the chairman of the Committee of Tourism and Antiquities in Dhi Qar, there is a promising future for archaeological excavations and for transforming this region into a modern tourist center that attracts investments and cash to the province.

He added, “A French mission will dig in the Karso archaeological site, situated in Nasr, 60 kilometers [37 miles] north of Nasiriyah, in October 2015. There is also an American team that will start work in September. The American team is headed by Elizabeth Stone of New York University. In late 2015, an Italian team will dig in the city of Eridu, west of Nasiriyah.”

Much needs to be done to protect the ruins, said archaeological researcher and former history teacher Halim Yasiri. He told Al-Monitor, “The archaeological sites in Dhi Qar are constantly being looted, amid poor government efforts to protect those archaeological sites and turn them into tourist attractions. … Government officials announce that funds have been allocated for the rehabilitation of archaeological sites, but we see nothing of that on the ground. The indifference to Iraqi archeological ruins will cause them to gradually disappear.”

Yasiri pointed out that one of the biggest problems facing the ruins of Ur is “the military air base built on site grounds in the 1980s — the Imam Ali Air Base, which was built over ancient hills and caused noise and pollution.”

Today, there are hundreds of historical archaeological sites in Iraq that have not been excavated and are explored by thieves who steal priceless artifacts. The Iraqi government should benefit from Western expertise in the field of drilling and preserving antiquities. It should seek professional and technical help from UNESCO as well as experts to preserve antiquities and drill into hundreds of buried historical sites.

These sites should be protected from theft and networks of antiquity traders through developed security measures. The historical sites should also be turned into touristic and research projects through investments that would provide the money needed for the protection and development of the sites.

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