Thousands of significant Iraqi ancient sites still unguarded
By Shaymaa Adel
January 30, 2012
Thousands of Iraqi archaeological sites remain unguarded nearly eight years after the 2003-U.S. invasion, said the chief of Iraqi Antiquities Department Qais Hussein.
Hussein cited the southern Province of Dhi Qar, Iraq’s richest in ancient treasures, as an example where there are 1,200 archaeologically significant sites but only 200 guards.
Dhi Qar of which Nasiriya is the provincial capital, was the center of Sumerian civilization which flourished in southern Iraq more than 5,000 years ago.
The Sumerians invented writing and established the first urban settlements in man’s history.
"We have been writing to the concerned authorities to allow us to appoint more guards but to no avail," he said.
In the absence of guards, the sites become easy targets for illegal diggers, trying to uncover ancient relics and have them smuggled abroad.
Some of Iraq’s finest Mesopotamian sites are reported to have been looted of some of their most significant contents.
While most of the museum items that went missing in the chaos that followed the 2003-U.S. invasion, Iraqi scientists say huge numbers of relics dug up illegal from unguarded mounds are not changing hands between smugglers and illegal art dealers.
Hussein said there were more than 12,000 archaeologically significant mounds in Iraq which by law are entitled for protection.
But he said the Antiquities Department only has 1,200 guards, leaving more than 10,000 ancient sites without protection.