Sep 4 2012
By Khayoon Saleh
Azzaman, September 5, 2012
The southern Iraqi Province of Dhiqar, Iraq’s richest in Mesopotamian artifacts, has reported the looting of nearly 37000 archaeological pieces from ancient sites within its demonstrative borders, according to the Antiquities Department.
The department’s chief information officer, Hakem al-Shammari said the report of the massive looting has prompted the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to take immediate measures to safeguard ancient sites in the province.
Dhiqar, of which the city of Nasiriya is the provincial capital, was the seat of Sumerian civilization that flourished in southern Iraq more than 5000 years ago.
The Sumerian capital of Ur as well as their religious center of Sippar with their renowned ziquarats, or terraced temples, are a short drive from Nasiriya.
The Sumerians are the world’s first nation to have invented a system of writing and civil government.
Their city-states had municipal services, courts, councils, registries, schools and libraries dating to 25000 B.C. Material evidences of their civilization as well as the chronicles of their kings have been preserved on clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing.
There are thousands of unexcavated sites in the province. In the absence of guards and police protect, most of these sites have fallen prey to illegal diggers who collect finds and sell them on the open market to smugglers.
The report of the large-scale looting was confirmed by the antiquities directorate of Dhiqar.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister, said Shammari, has traveled to the province and is coordinating with the provincial authorities on means to increase protection of ancient sites.
Dhiqar looting is the largest and most serious damage to Iraqi antiquities after the looting of Iraq Museum in the aftermath of the 2003-U.S. invasion of Iraq.
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