Iraq welcomes Return of Foreign Archaeological Missions

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Under a new contract between the General Authority of Iraqi Antiquities and Britain, a British exploration mission to the historic Tell Khaiber site west of Nasiriyah arrived Jan. 16. Iraqis are hoping that excavations will resume at about 17,000 sites, 1,200 of which are found in the province of Dhi Qar in the south, mostly dating back to the era of the dawn of dynasties (2800 B.C.), the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian civilizations, and the Islamic era.

In Iraq's south, there are about 623 of these sites in Babylon, 200 partly buried in Karbala province and 200 discovered ancient sites in Najaf. It is thought that the completion of surveys could cause these numbers to double.

More scientific missions are being deployed across Iraq to excavate the rich land of Mesopotamia and discover the underground archaeological treasures.

In 2013, a team co-led by Stuart Campbell of Manchester University began conducting the first British-led archaeological excavation mission at Tell Khaiber near the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq since the 1980s. Tell Khaiber is about 375 kilometers (233 miles) south of Baghdad in Dhi Qar province.

Under the new contract, the first between the General Authority of Iraqi Antiquities and Britain since the 1980s, the exploration mission will receive protection and security services from the government and has committed to hand all findings to the government. Under the 1932 Antiquities Law, prospectors must deliver everything they find to the Iraqi National Museum.

The British have discovered a residential city, clay tablets, seals and graves in the ancient city of Ur and at the nearby Tell Khaiber site.

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