Libmonster ID: U.S.-1256
Author(s) of the publication: S. N. GRINYAEV


Head of the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts


Museum values Keywords:, cairo museums, cultural heritage of Iraq, archaeological excavations

Spontaneous demonstrations by the masses, in whatever countries they occur, usually lead to the loss of cultural property, the looting of museum treasures, the plundering of personal collections, no matter how high their value. The events of the beginning of this year, which took place in the Arab East, were no exception.

From many countries in the region, there were reports of huge damage to the unique collections of ancient art treasures caused by crowds of people suddenly breaking into museums and palaces. And although the goals of the rebels were generally noble, and their demands for changes in states and society were mostly justified, these people, as is often the case during revolutions, were joined by a lot of lumpen or simply criminal elements. They were essentially indifferent to the revolutionary slogans, and they used the resulting turmoil for personal enrichment, for looting everything that came to hand-from food in supermarkets to unique museum values.


It is impossible to justify all this. Numerous facts of looters ' participation in the looting of the most valuable museum exhibits have been proven and condemned by the world community. So, in one of the very first reports of riots that broke out on the streets of Cairo, it was said that about 70 exhibits of the world-famous Cairo Museum were damaged, which now have to be restored. 1 Then there were fewer such disturbing reports, but it is quite obvious that such facts were not isolated.

It is still impossible to assess the damage caused to the museum collections of Egypt due to the lack of complete information, Elena Tolmacheva, scientific secretary of the Center for Egyptological Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who returned from an archaeological expedition in this country, told RIA Novosti afterwards.2
It is even more difficult to assess the damage caused to unguarded cultural sites, such as archaeological sites or the remains of ancient settlements. According to scientists, today archaeologists have studied only a third of the ancient ruins located on the territory of Egypt. Scientists have high hopes for studying artefacts-objects preserved from ancient civilizations that once flourished in these places. Such findings often showed that even modern humans have a lot to learn from the ancient Egyptians3. But how do you estimate how many such artifacts are also stolen by an excited crowd?..

Following the unrest that began in Tunisia and Egypt, the situation in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria escalated. Now scientists are historians, archaeologists, etc. - it is expected with concern that their rich cultural heritage will be damaged in these countries as well.

These concerns are more than justified. The modern history of the East is replete with examples when the aggravation of the political situation in a particular region led to huge cultural losses. So, quite recently, the history of ancient Babylon was literally erased by tank tracks.


We are talking about Iraq - the oldest country, on the territory of which cultural monuments dating back to the IV millennium BC have been preserved. Here is one of the shrines of Islam - the Great Mosque in Samarra. In the cities of Nejef and Karbala, relatives of the Prophet Muhammad - Imam Ali and his son Hussein-are buried. The prehistoric settlements of the ancient Iraqi capital of Fallujah are of great scientific interest. Nasiriyah's attractions include 16 royal tombs and the ruins of the historic ziggurat 4.

As early as January 2005, the media reported that the soldiers of the coalition forces were barbaric in their treatment of these and other cultural heritage sites in Iraq.5 According to the representative of the British National Museum, the military base of the coalition forces, located on the site of excavations in ancient Babylon, caused enormous damage to this historical monument. Hundreds of items dating back thousands of years have been destroyed or disappeared from the excavation sites. American military vehicles destroyed a brick foundation dating back to the seventh century BC. e. The dragons that decorated the Ishtar Gate - one of the world's most famous archaeological sites-suffered significant damage. A representative of the museum said that a huge amount of soil was taken out of the area of the ancient city in an unknown direction, along with archaeological fragments located in it. In addition, the soldiers filled bags with this soil, which were used for the construction of temporary fortifications.

The military base on the site of Babylon, 50 kilometers from Baghdad, was set up by US Marines; then it passed to the military contingent of Poland. According to the curator of the British Museum, John Curtis, " ... this is as blasphemous as setting up a military base near the Pyramid of Cheops or Stonehenge..."

Iraq's Minister of Culture, Mafid al-Jazayri, said he was shocked by the extent of the damage to the historical monument. " ... We expected that the ruins of Babylon would be damaged, but we did not know that it would be so significant...", he said.

In April 2005, in the Iraqi city of Samarra, an attempt was made to blow up the minaret of a unique historical and cultural monument-the al-Malwiya Mosque, as a result of which the upper tier of minaret 6 was damaged.

On July 31, 2007, news agencies reported on the complete destruction of the truly greatest monument in the history of mankind - the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Daniel in the vicinity of the city of Baquba 7. According to local authorities, on the afternoon of July 29, several dozen fighters arrived in the Wajhiya district, where the ancient monument was located.-

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the Vicks who put explosives on the building. The explosion was so strong that only rubble remained from the structure, which had stood for more than two and a half millennia. The identity of the militants who destroyed the tomb, as well as the purpose of such vandalism, remained unknown.

In August 2006, another explosion occurred in the Shiite holy city of Nejef, 160 km south of Baghdad. The bomb was planted in a market near the Imam Ali Mosque, killing several dozen people. 8 This place is especially revered, since the mosque contains a tomb - the burial of Ali himself, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the four righteous caliphs.

But the worst blow to Iraq's legacy came in the early days of the occupation. Then, in 2003, at least 15 thousand of the most valuable exhibits were stolen from the National Museum in Baghdad. Priceless historical relics dating back to the ancient Sumerian civilization and other periods of Mesopotamian history have disappeared from the museum's halls and vaults. Looters also burned inventory items. They penetrated underground vaults, where there were especially valuable relics, such as an alabaster Uruk vase made 5 thousand years ago, as well as the "White Lady", which was considered the world's oldest sculptural image - it was 5,5 thousand years old.

The Americans and British, of course, tried to organize an information cover for the looting of the museum's exhibits and informed the press about their desire to fight looters. At one of the press conferences in April 2003, the then commander of the US forces in the Persian Gulf, General Tommy Franks, told reporters that at that time more than 100 antiquities stolen by looters were returned to the museum (and this is out of 15 thousand!).

On April 15, 2003, news agencies reported that the books and archives of the Iraqi National Library were destroyed by fire in Baghdad.9 Priceless documents of the royal court of Iraq and texts from the Ottoman Empire were destroyed in the fire. Unknown assailants broke into the library and city archives of Baghdad and burned literally everything. The fire also spread to the Koran Library, which contained ancient and rare editions of the holy book for Muslims.

At the same time, in 2003, UNESCO experts said that the loss of the country's cultural heritage had already become "catastrophic". Many of the museum's exhibits and library relics have probably been lost forever. As Hashem Hama Abdula, director of the Museum of Antiquities in the city of Sulaymaniyah, put it,"...if a story is stolen from you, you lose track of it. We are talking not only about the Iraqi people, but about the entire world civilization, the cradle of which was in Mesopotamia... "The same idea was expressed in one of the publications of the British newspaper "Independent": someone wants to erase the culture and history of Iraq, reducing them to the "zero point of cultural reference".

Apparently, the robberies and vandalism were not accidental. There were thieves who knew what they needed. Moreover, looting a museum exhibit is not a new phenomenon in Iraq, said Mcuire Gibson, director of the American Research Association in Baghdad: "This is not the first looting of a museum in Iraq. It seems that this time it was, if not entirely, at least partly a deliberate, well-planned action, in all likelihood, by the same gangs that have attacked the sites of excavations over the past 12 years ... " 10.

Against this background, recent reports about the opening of new monuments in the Middle East region look like little consolation. Although, for the sake of justice, it is necessary to say about this.

In December 2004, according to Israeli archaeologists, during excavations in the north of Israel, in an olive grove near Kfar Kana (Galilee), they discovered the ruins of an ancient city. Some experts believe that this is the Cana of Galilee located between Nazareth and Capernaum, where Christ performed his first miracle 11. Some media outlets also reported that at the same time, these archaeologists found the remains of the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, 12 where, according to the Gospel, Jesus performed another miracle - he healed a blind man who put clay on his eyes, "...and he said to him, Go and wash in the pool of Siloam. He went and washed, and came back seeing..."

On April 7, 2007, the Israelis reported that in the vicinity of Jerusalem, a group of archaeologists led by Professor Ehud Netzer from the Hebrew University discovered the tomb of King Herod (reigned in 40-4 BC). E. Netzer has been excavating in Herodion since 1972. On May 7, at a press conference, the professor gave a description of the grave, indicating its exact location. location, described the richly decorated sarcophagus located there. However, no remains of Herod himself were found.13

In light of these and other discoveries, there are growing voices of "optimists" who say that the recent loss of museums and repositories in North Africa should not be overestimated. That there are many more undiscovered monuments of ancient culture than open ones, and sooner or later humanity will find a replacement for everything lost. Which, of course, is not true, because every artifact or ancient building is evidence of unique pages in the history of mankind. And any new discoveries can only be an addition to the already known historical information, but not replace them in any way.

We are not even talking about attempts to "rewrite history" in connection with new discoveries, as was the case, for example, shortly after the so-called "Gospel of Judas" was brought to light, which supposedly describes the emergence of Christianity in a completely new way. That is why the disappearance of many relics of the distant past as a result of military operations in the Middle East means not only the appearance of "white spots" in history, but also can serve as a reason for new disputes about events that have long been recognized as absolutely obvious.

The destruction of historical and cultural monuments in Egypt, Iraq, and other countries in the region is more correctly qualified not as "vandalism", but as a real humanitarian catastrophe that damages not only our ideas about the past of humanity, but also can, under certain conditions, affect its future.

1 http://www/


3 http://www.nowaday.diz/news/kairskij-egipetskij-muzej-v-cen-tre-politicheskih-volne nij


5 http://www/lenta/ru/iraq/babilon










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