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Breakfast Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 05:09 GMT 06:09 UK
Saving Iraq's heritage
Baghdad's national museum
Surveying the damage to Baghdad's national museum
The war in Iraq is all but over, but only now can the cost of damage to the country's rich heritage be counted.

Museums across the country have been looted, their artefacts damaged, reminders of its history smashed to pieces, but the United States has vowed to help repair the damage.

Iraq has been described as the cradle of civilisation and birthplace to Christian and Muslim cultures and a meeting is scheduled for today to assess the damage.

  • Breakfast discussed this with Dr Neil Brodie who is an expert on illicit antiquities and Dr Eleanor Robson from Oxford university.


    Famous sites

  • Iraq is home to many famous sites. Famous from the bible is Babylon reconstructed in the seventh century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar.

  • His great stepped pyramid or ziggurat which was the symbolical residence of the gods on earth, it was demonised in the Old Testament as an emblem of man's pride, ambition and arrogance.

  • Al-Qurnah is a town on the southern tip of Iraq where the Euphrates and Tigris meet and flow into the Persian Gulf - thought to be the site of the Garden of Eden.

    The national museum in Baghdad was home to artefacts that dated back 10'000 years.

    The development of writing, abstract counting and the wheel and agriculture were all charted in its exhibitions.

    Remains of the cities of Babylon Ur and Nineveh were also on show.

    Also looted were the museums in Basra and Mosul and its thought one of the oldest known copies of the Koran was damaged by fire.

    Unesco have called for cultural sites to be protected and the organisation is hoping that many artefacts were packed away before the war.

    Italy has pledged 254'000 and it is hoped that other countries will lend their support.

    Baghdad's national museum
    A man reads papers at the entrance to a vault in Baghdad museum
    Whilst the US military has been criticised for not protecting the museums, it's not clear whether they were looted for financial gain or by local people who just took advantage of the situation.

    For decades there has been an international trade in antiquities from Iraq and no one was bothered even though sanctions affecting trade were in place.

    Whilst the military may have protected cultural sites from bombing, critics say only emergency legislation can save what remains of Iraq's history.

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    Antiquities

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