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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Iraq’s ancient Uruk loses grandeur

Iraq’s ancient Uruk loses grandeur

By Saad Hussein

Azzaman, May 21, 2010

Iraq’s largest archaeological site is in danger and may be lost forever, an Iraqi scientist says.

Hadiya Jwan al-Khalidi, head of Muthana University’s History Department, urged the authorities to move quickly to save Uruk before it was too late.

She said Uruk was not "an ordinary archaeological site. I am really sad to see what has become of this treasure."

Situated east of the present course of the Euphrates, the site was known to the Sumerians as Unu. The Akkadians called it Uruk.

Warka is the Biblical version of Uruk, one of Mesopotamia’s most ancient sites and where digs have uncovered traces of almost all ancient civilizations that flourished in southern Iraq.

Urging the government to pay attention to Uruk, Khalidi said: "Warka is Iraq’s real treasure. I am so sad to see this ancient site suffering from neglect and being forgotten. Most of its landmarks are now buried under sand."

She said Uruk was one of the rare Mesopotamian towns to have continued flourishing until the advent of Islam in Iraq in the 7th century.

"This is the site which was an important religious and civil center until the coming of Islam," she said.

Early excavation started in Uruk in 1912 and brought to light a large town with growing urban proportions and dating to the 5th millennium B.C.

The city has given world museums unusual artifacts among them fine sculpture and cylinder seals.

But the site’s most treasured and most renowned artifact is the Lady of Warka. This magnificent sculpture, known familiarly as the Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia, was stolen shortly after the U.S. invasion and later recovered and handed over to the Iraq Museum.

Remains of Uruk ziggurat still dominated the site prior to the 2003-U.S. invasion of Iraq, but this terraced structure, a landmark of major Mesopotamian cities, is said to be crumbling.

Khalidi said Uruk and its surroundings are rich with archeological sites.

"There are more than 200 ancient sites in the area and only a few have been excavated so far," she said.

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