Abstract: From Sumer to Saddam and Beyond: The Fate of Iraq's Cultural Heritage


This presentation has three goals. First to introduce the audience to the ancient history of Iraq. Second, to discuss how that history has been received by modern historians and what role it plays in our understanding of the Western tradition. And third, to discuss the potential impact of today’s events on the remains of that distant past. Lay audiences are familiar with some aspects of the ancient history of Iraq, they will have heard of the Sumerians, of Hammurabi and his law code, of the Babylonian captivity. In short, they will be aware of the ancient story as it has intersected with the narrative of Western civilization, and in particular with the world of the bible. What I am going to do is to begin to provide some context for these intersections, both the history that lies behind them, and the process that led to their inclusion in what I would call the dominant historical narrative of Western progress. Moreover, Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, is now a crossroads for modern history. The current war in Iraq has two immediate consequences for historians and archaeologists. First, it compels us to consider the place of Iraq in our own history once again. Second, the war places that history at risk. This presentation will include a summary of how the current conflict has affected the archaeological remains in Iraq and efforts to preserve them.


Suggested Bibliography/Websites:
Larsen, M.T., The Conquest of Assyria. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Van De Mieroop, Marc, A History of the Ancient Near East. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

Van De Mieroop, Marc, Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of History. New York: Routledge, 1999.

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