Babylon, ancient city of Babylon, city of Babylon
Karim Kadim/AP
A view of a wall in the Archeological site of Babylon, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south
of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Sept. 18,
2008. (AP)

Has War Damage Hidden Babylon’s Ancient Secrets?

November 13, 2008 12:59 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The United Nations is leading efforts to restore the city of Babylon, but experts wonder whether it sustained too much damage during the Iraq War.  

Hanging Gardens Gone

The ancient city of Babylon has become a casualty of the Iraq War. In October, members of the Associated Press traveled to the city with a storied past that includes astronomers, early laws and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. What they found was a shell of the city’s former self, heavily looted and with “the aura of a theme park,” where “crumbling old walls” and “modern walkways” coexist.  

But for the first time, the United Nations is leading a program to thoroughly document the damage to Babylon in an attempt to learn how to repair it. According to AP, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plans to release a report early next year outlining the causes of Babylon’s deterioration. The report will note tourism-motivated construction by Saddam Hussein, but “at the Iraqi government’s request,” will focus on damage caused by U.S. and Polish troops who used the city as a military base, AP reported. 

The United States contends that without its troop presence, “looting would have been worse,” and has said it will contribute to the reconstruction by funding efforts by “the World Monuments Fund and Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage,” according to AP.

In January 2005, U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported that Iraqi forces would assume responsibility for Babylon, inheriting “a catalogue of disasters,” including “contamination and disturbance of areas” that had not yet been excavated. Experts feared that the city’s ancient secrets, including the site of the Hanging Gardens, would be left unresolved because of the damage.

Related Topic: Restoring Iraq’s cultural relics

Reference: UNESCO


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