The Polish government has officially apologized for the widespread and in cases
irreparable damage caused to ancient Babylon by its troops.
The apology was delivered during a meeting which brought together Iraqi Culture
Minister Noori al-Rawi and his Polish counterpart in Baghdad.
The sides signed a cultural agreement under which Poland will help the country
with archaeological excavation and preservation of ancient items.
“The apology was made during the talks,” Rawi said.
He did not say whether Iraq has accepted the apology and whether the Polish
authorities had agreed to pay for the damages.
Babylon is the biggest ancient settlement in the whole of Mesopotamian and
has been the site of decades of archaeological study.
The damage to the city by Polish troops was documented by Dr. John Curtis of
the British Museum in cooperation with scientists from Iraq, Britain and Poland.
The city, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was turned into a base by
U.S. troops who later handed it to the Polish contingent in the country.
Evidence of widespread damage is still visible throughout the culturally sensitive
areas of Babylon.
Huge trenches were dug in areas rich with artifacts with tons of material scooped
out of its historical context and used to fill sandbags.
The troops even leveled huge areas which they covered with gravel and used
as helicopter pads.
Molded brick dragon figures, one of Babylon’s most fascinating surviving
artifacts, have been serious damaged reportedly by soldiers trying to remove
pieces of the relief.
Rawi, the culture minister, said the Polish delegation presented his ministry
with two recent studies by Polish scientists on Mesopotamian archaeology.
Other important archaeological sites around Iraq have also suffered from the
U.S.-led war and occupation.
U.S. commanders battling a bold and escalating insurgency are said to deploy
troops on cultural and ancient sites in inside towns and cities.
For example, U.S. snipers are reported to be using the ancient and spiraling
minaret in Samara, one of Iraq’s most prized Islamic structures as a snipers’
Rawi did not say whether foreign troops in the country will adhere to rules
issued the Archaeology Department, one of his ministry’s major institutions.
The department tries to forbid foreign troops from using ancient sites as bases
It also demands foreign troops to pay for the damages they have caused to these
Iraq is one of the world’s richest countries in ancient artifacts with
more than 10,000 sites officially registered as of archaeological significance.