Iraq, which the ancient Greeks called Mesopotamia or “land between two rivers” because of the Tigris and Euphrates, has always been regarded by archaeologists as the cradle of civilization.
Driven by the desire to reassemble some of the country’s lost history, a group of Iraqi archaeologists have recently managed to unearth artifacts and a Babylonian temple’s structure dating back to the middle Babylon period between 1532 BC to 1000 BC at an archaeological site in Iraq’s southern province of Nassiriya.
The site, excavated at 500 square meter at Abu Rabab plateau and located 150 km in east of Nassiriya city, is part of a project called “Gardens of Eden” which Iraqi government plans to launch over the next few years to promote tourism in the province.
“There are many archaeological sites in this region including the ancient archaeological plateaux that was excavated as part of the marshes project, the archaeological site of Abu Rabab, Abu al-Dhahb, Abu Massaed site, and other archaeological plateaux. Now we are working in four archaeological plateaux that are located near the province and near the marshes. The work is being done in this area because the site is close to the province, and water does not leak in the archaeological plateaux,” said Iyad Mahmoud, Archaeologist and director of archaeological team.
Some valuable artifacts and relics were discovered during the site excavations.
“We have unearthed two buildings, the building units could be a Babylonian temple. Artifacts, including jars, clay tablets, cylinder and flat stamps, were also discovered near the site,” Mahmoud added.
Thousands of priceless relics were looted from Iraq’s museums and archeological sites in the mayhem that followed the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Some 15,000 artifacts were thought to have been looted from the Iraqi National Museum and thousands more from archeological sites since the start of the 2003 war.
Mahmoud pointed out that financial backing is the key problem that hinders excavations in Nassiriya.
“The main problem we have is the financial allocations by ministry of finance and ministry of planning. The second reason is that the government does not give enough attention to relics. I do not mean the central government in particular, but I mean the long-term planning for the archaeological sites, the archaeological site needs huge amount of money,” he explained.
In recent years the Iraqi government has slowly reassembled some of Iraq’s lost history.
On September 2011 officials announced the recovery of the headless statue of a Sumerian king and more than 500 other pieces. Two weeks later the National Museum found 600 missing items stashed in a storeroom of the prime minister's office.
In December 2008, Iraqi authorities seized 228 artifacts that smugglers planned to take out of the country.