How Mesopotamia Has Weathered the War

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More than five and a half years into the Iraq War, the condition of archaeological sites and antiquities in Iraq remains a frustrating and contentious topic among archaeologists and art historians. Two surveys in the past year—one in northern Iraq in May, the other in the south in June—have persuaded some that the ongoing damage is far less extensive than most observers had believed. Yet with more than 10,000 registered sites and numerous other mounds of earth that may still conceal uncatalogued treasures from the “cradle of civilization,” many archaeologists question whether the surveyed sites are representative of conditions elsewhere.

The report of the May survey, conducted by U.S. and Iraqi investigators, stated that “none of the sites showed signs of looting or extensive vandalism.” Likewise, the June report, by a team of Iraqi and British archaeologists who visited eight southern sites, found little evidence of looting since the war began.

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