April 11, 2003
Jumping To Conclusions

'Hesiod' (6:47 PM today) and others have jumped on reports that mobs of Baghdadis have looted the Baghdad Archaeological Museum while American troops stood idly by. This is horrible, if true, but there may be more to the story than that. There is an entire site devoted to The 2003 Iraq War and Archaeology. Special thanks to Francis Deblauwe, who runs the site (which also includes a nice map showing the locations of Ur, Nineveh, Babylon, and other ancient cities in what is now Iraq) and to Ricky Torrey, who mentioned it on the Internet Classics list -- otherwise I would not have heard of it.

Deblauwe quotes the same Australian story as 'Hesiod', but also links to a very different story (in French) in today's Le Figaro, giving this brief English summary:

halls with still-intact display cases (objects removed for safekeeping before the war started); the big orthostats and lamassus still there with their protective sandbags; some objects were taken to a safe haven under the supervision of US troops shortly after their arrival in Baghdad on Wednesday.

I don't know how much of either story is true, but neither does 'Hesiod'. It's rash to assume the worst. And no American should ever quote "ABC News", as 'Hesiod' does, without mentioning that it's the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the Australian equivalent of the BBC), not the more familiar (to us) American network with the same initials.

I don't know what "orthostats and lamassus" are, either, but I'm a Latin language and literature guy, not a Mesopotamian archaeologist. Etymologically, an orthostat is something that stands up straight: some kind of obelisk? I should look it up, but as I said I'm not an archaeologist.

By the way, 'Hesiod' has been banned from commenting on this site. His AOL address is immune to IP banning, so I will be deleting any comments from him as soon as I see them. I only mention this publicly to save others the trouble of replying to any comments he may leave, which will be quite ephemeral. If he doesn't know why, he's even stupider than I thought.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 11, 2003 08:21 PM