The new feature film “The Monuments Men“ shines some much-needed light on an important (but sometimes overlooked) aspect of modern US military operations and policy:
The duty to protect cultural property during armed conflict and post conflict activities unless prevented by imperative military necessity (subject to Rule 39 of customary international law).
We often hear the question: “who are the monuments men and women serving in the US military today?”
The fact is: some monuments men and women serve in the US military; others serve in the armed forces of US or NATO allies; and others serve in conflict zones in a civilian capacity (e.g., for the US Department of State). Keeping this in mind, we offer the list below. To nominate your own “monuments man or woman of today,” please Contact Us .
Lieutenant Colonel James Ahern
In 2008 then Major James Ahern, while serving on the General Staff at the US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq. There he supported the Ramadi Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team’s Public Library and Museum initiatives by applying his M.A. degree in history and his additional skill identifiers: 6V Cultural Affairs Officer and 6W Archivist.
Captain Jesse Ballenger
He interrupted graduate school to serve in the Army National Guard, and was deployed to Iraq with the 153rd Field Artillery Brigade to the vicinity of Hatra, the fortified Helentistic-era city-state that fell to the invading Sassanids around 241 A.D. He soon identified the need for increased site protection and gained support for the building of a security fence around this important World Heritage List site.
Accompanied by a team of engineers from the 412th Engineer Command under the 130th Engineer Brigade, and the local Iraqi Army commander, Ballenger visited the site in 2006 to complete the design for a protective fence that will encircle the entire site, including currently unexcavated areas.
“If all goes well in Iraq, energy and archaeological tourism [will be] the two big industries,” said Ballenger as described in this article.
Colonel Matthew Bogdanos (USMC Reserve, retired)
Having enlisted into the United States Marine Corps Reserve in January 1977, while still a freshman studying classics at Bucknell University, Matthew Bogdanos received a master’s degree in classics from Columbia University, a second master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College, graduated from Columbia University Law School and resigned from active duty in 1988 to join the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, he returned to full-time active duty, leading a law enforcement, counter-terrorism team to Afghanistan, where he was awarded a bronze star for actions against Al-Qaeda. Promoted to colonel and deployed to Iraq in March 2003, Bogdanos volunteered to investigate the sacking of the Iraq National Museum, where thousands of valuable antiquities had been stolen.
During the next five years Bogdanos led a 13-member team formed by U.S. Central Command with personnel from 10 federal agencies, which recovered the famed Warka Vase and Mask of Warka and more than 6000 other stolen artifacts as part of a worldwide investigation that continues to this day.
On September 10, 2003, Colonel Bogdanos briefed senior staff at the Pentagon on the progress of the investigation. Exposing the link between antiquities trafficking and terrorist financing, he has also presented those findings to the United Nations, Interpol, British Parlieament, and the Peace Palace in The Hague.
In November 2005, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush for his efforts to recover the Iraq Museum artifacts. He has also received the 2004 Public Service Award from the Hellenic Lawyers of America, the 2005 SAFE Beacon Award, the 2006 Distinguished Leadership Award from the Washington DC Historical Society, and many other awards and accolades. His experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq prompted Bogdanos to write a memoir, Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures (co-written with William Patrick) in 2005 and undertake numerous speaking and media appearances across the U.S. and in more than 20 countries.
Deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 with NATO counter-insurgency forces, he was released back into the Marine Reserves in September 2010 and has since returned to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office serving as Senior Homicide Trial Counsel.
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Brewer
Known as “Ranger Dan” to his colleagues, LTC Brewer served as the US Central Command Environmental Engineer from 2008 to 2011. LTC Brewer recognized that protection of historical and cultural property was an essential component of the Central Command Environmental Protection Portfolio. His hard work resulted in the Central Command Chief of Staff signing a robust environmental regulation that included protection of cultural property forward.
In addition, LTC Brewer insured that preservation issues were considered during two Eagle Resolve Coalition Military Exercises in the Arabian Gulf, in the Bright Star War Games of 2009, in two Jordanian Environmental Engagements, and in an Environmental Shura in Kabul Afghanistan in 2010.
LTC Brewer in cooperation with LTC Robert Tucker also played a key role in allocating US funding for archaeological salvage support at the recently discovered Buddhist temple complex at Mes Aynek, Afghanistan. Such attention to environmental stewardship saves lives and resources and brings good will with host nation populace, which increases force protection so that soldiers and staff may return home safely.
Captain Cole Calloway
Having joined the US Army National Guard in 1988, Cole Calloway received a B.A. degree in anthropology from California State University, Northridge in 1995, enlisted into the US Army Reserves with the rank of Captain in 2004 and has served two tours in Iraq (2005-06 and 2008-10) and one tour in Afghanistan (2011-2013) as a Civil Affairs officer.
Assigned to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior at Kirkuk as a CAT-A [Civil Affairs Team-Alpha] Team Leader with the 451st Civil Affairs Batallion, Captain Cole conducted area assessments of the Battle Space (attending to base requirements for water, medical, security, sanitation, etc.) and volunteered to serve as Cultural Affairs Liaison Officer to the the head of the Kirkuk Directorate of Antiquities, Ayad Hussein.
At FOB Warrior, Captain Calloway encountered a military base that had been built by the Saddam Hussein regime atop and adjacent to the 15th-14th century BC Akkadian city of Nuzi (modern name: Yorghan Tepe). Saddam had placed a military base at the site because, as the Akkadians had observed 3500 years earlier, the location offered a measure of protection against attack from the west.
Because of the base’s location atop an archaeological site, “anytime we put a shovel in the ground, we dug up artifacts,” recalls Captain Calloway. Meanwhile the regional museum at Kirkuk had been looted after the end of the first Gulf War and had not fully recovered. Most of the display cases still sat empty. As he explained in this U.S. Army news story in 2006, Captain Calloway set up a “relics room” under the care of the U.S. Air Force Legal Office, where newly-discovered artifacts were documented and catalogued for eventual transfer to local authorities. “We hoped that the artifacts we handed over will help the museum reestablish itself.” The artifacts included a burial vase dated circa 250 BC and an oil lamp dating from 2000–3000 BC.
During his 2008-2010 Iraq tour, as HHC Company Commander for the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion. Captain Calloway served as the Liaison Officer for CJ9 [Combined Joint Command- Civil Military Operations Section] as the Tourism and Antiquities officer for the Multi-National Forces Division-Baghdad.
This duty involved building up a tourism industry for Iraq that leverages its ancient Mesopotamian heritage and protects cultural property for the benefit of the new Iraqi Government. Working with the resident expert and field archaeologist for the Department of State in Baghdad, Diane Siebrandt, Captain Calloway gathered information on how to revive the state-sponsored tourism industry that existed under the Saddam regime and turn historical resources in his area of operations into assets to generate much needed revenue for the local population.
Focus centered on Aqar Quf, a 14th century BC ziggurat in al-Anbar province. that stands atop a brick pedestal that was built by the Iraqi government during the early 1980s. While the ziggurat remained untouched by the invasion, the nearby visitors center and administration building had been looted. During 2008, Captain Calloway secured $150,000 in CERP (Commander’s Emergency Relief Program) funding to refurbish the Agar Quf administration and tourist buildings. As with many projects of this kind, progress was delayed and did not resume until after Captain Calloway had finished his tour. Thereafter the project was managed by Captain Benjamin Roberts after Calloway’s Iraq tour ended.
Having returned from a recent tour of duty in Afghanistan, Captain Calloway is now pursuing a three-phase Master’s Program in Global Policy at the Naval Post-Graduate School.
Captain Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen (Austrian Armed Forces)
Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, the current Head of the House of Habsburg, enlisted as a member of the Austrian Armed Forces as a reserve officer trainee in 1981, now serves with the rank of Captain and since 2003 has served as Cultural Property Protection Officer (CPPO), first with the staff of the Military Command of Salzburg, later with the Armed Forces High Command, and currently with the Institut für Human- und Sozialwissenschaften (IHSW) at Staff College in Vienna. Since December 2008, Captain Habsburg has also served as the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS), which coordinates and strengthens international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction during armed conflicts or natural disasters.
Among his many accomplishments as ANCBS president are the three cultural civil military assessment missions to countries in conflict, together with LTC Joris Kila. In February 2011 Captain Habsburg travelled to Egypt with LTC Kila to assess damages and evidence of looting to Egyptian heritage sites and museums during the unrests that led to toppling of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Their Egypt mission report is available on the Austrian Blue Shield Committee website. In September 2011 Captain Habsburg travelled to Libya with LTC Kila, during the midst of the Libyan revolution, on the first of two missions to assess the situation at Leptis Magna, Sabratha, and Tripoli to verify whether the cultural heritage no-strike list that had been provided to the US Defense Intelligence Agency and Allied forces had been successful in protecting Libya’s important sites. See their report of the September 2011 mission. Two months later, after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, he returned to Libya with LTC Kila to assess the situation at Umm al Shuga, Tocra, Tometha, Qasr Libya, Cyrene, Apollonia, Darnah, Ras Halal and the Ras Almergib Castle near Benghazi. See their report of the November 2011 mission.
In January 2014, following the unrest and widespread reports of cultural property destruction in northern Mali, Captain Habsburg and LTC Kila travelled to Mali. They were joined by Christo Grozev and Siratigui Sogoba from the Musée des Armées, Bamako, traveling at times under the protection of members of the Malian military. The team visited a number of sites across the country, including Timbuktu to: document the condition of the sites; assess the impact of post-conflict problems such as illegal digging and illicit trafficking of cultural property; provide international solidarity with and support for those in Mali who protected their heritage under extreme difficult conditions; and encourage the Malian Armed Forces to further efforts to protect cultural property. Captain Habsburg met with military colleagues, who had attended a workshop on cultural property protection for African armed forces held in Vienna in December 2013 and gave presentations on cultural property protection for more than 30 officers from different security services in Timbuktu. Their Mali mission report is available on the Austrian Blue Shield Committee website. An illustrated booklet titled Objectif dans Tombouctou will be published shortly.
Karl Habsburg-Lothringen studied law, political science and philosophy, is a 1982 graduate of the University of Salzburg and received a grant to pursue further studies at Michigan State University in 1984. He served as a member of the European Parliament from 1996 to 1999 and received an LLM and MBA degree from IMADEC University in Vienna in 2012. He regularly consults as an expert on International Humanitarian Law and Cultural Property Protection during armed conflict at regional seminars of the ICRC and UNESCO.
Colonel Christopher Herndon
A native of Kentucky, Chris Herndon attended Cumberland College in Williamsburg, KY as an ROTC scholarship student, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1986, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, completed the Armor Officers Basic Course and served as commander of Delta Company, 2d Battalion, 72d Armor at Camp Casey (Dongducheon) Korea (1991-92), as an Action Officer on the US Army Staff (1992-94) and a UN Military Observer and Middle East Foreign Area Officer with the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission at Umm Qusr, Iraq (1994-1995). Returning to the US, he received a masters degree in International Affairs, Middle East Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University (1996-98), and was appointed Army Section Chief in Amman Jordan.
From 2002 to 2005, he was Director for Regional Contingency Operations, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also undertook two missions to Iraq with the rank of Major (March–August 2003 and March–July 2004) as Senior Political Advisor to the Coalition Provincial Authority in Hilla, where he was responsible for assessing crisis situations and developing political strategies, coordinating policy implementation with senior Coalition Provincial Authority officials in 6 out of 18 provinces in the South-Central region of Iraq ( an area that represents 50% of the Iraqi population and includes the locations of the holiest shrines in Shi’a Islam.
In 2003, Major Herndon served initially as a confidential assist to the Director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), Lieutenant General (Ret.) Jay Garner. As he recalls, “The ORHA regional team in Hilla, Iraq was extremely understaffed and its Director, Brigadier General (Ret.) Buck Walters asked General Garner for someone to assist who understood Iraqi culture. I had always been interested in Babylon and Samaria and wanted to help the people of Iraq recover from their decades of dictatorship and war. So when General Garner asked me if I was interested in working in Southern Iraq and I quickly agreed.”
Upon his arrival in Hilla, Herndon was sent to Babylon to assess the situation. ”It was grim, all of the archeologists were gone and several of the buildings had been severely looted including the Nebakanezer Museum and Hammurabi Museum at Hilla. I entered the museum to find all of the display cases smashed and the artifacts looted or broken.” Initially devastated, Major Herndon soon began work to put things right. “Since I could not find any of the archeologists at the Babylon site, I drove to nearby Hilla, found a residential neighborhood and began knocking on doors. I would ask the resident if they knew of anyone who worked at the Babylon Complex. The answer was always no. So, I would reply, ‘OK, if you think of anyone please let them know that we need to give them their pay from the last month.’ During the two hours of knocking on doors no one admitted knowing anyone who worked at the complex.” But as word of the pay offer circulated, several of the archaeologists did return to the site. “After I paid them, they went back to work. I asked about the local museums and was relieved to learn from several of the archeologists that despite disturbing news reports, the smashed artifacts were, in fact, copies. The originals had been sent to Baghdad years before under Saddam’s orders.”
While working with Iraqi archaeologists and local contractors, Major Herndon enlisted help from off duty volunteers from the Navy Construction Battalion Unit to help rebuild the looted Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi Museums, using $50,000 of discretionary funding to hire local contractors. He also set up a force of archaeological police, which monitored the most endangered sites in southern Iraq from Baghdad to the Basra. The program was criticized by some, but it also impeded site looting, which had become endemic in southern Iraq during the 1990s.
Major Herndon also re-organized the archaeological staff at Hilla, which was then workng under the watchful eye of Dr. Miriam Omran Mousa. “Dr. Miriam, as I always called her, was one of the most dedicated people that I have ever met. I appointed her as the Director of the Babyl Province Office of the State Board of Antiquities.” Dr. Miriam served as the lead for all work including the repair from the looting. ”The Museum roof was rebuilt for $16,000, the front door was completed by a local craftsman for $2,000, and another contractor was so appreciative of our work, he improved the road and paved the parking lot for free,” says Herndon. He continued to work with Dr. Miriam and her staff until July 2004, when he departed Iraq to serve as Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the US Embassy-Tunis. Advising the US Ambassador and Tunisian Ministry of Defense on all bi-lateral programs and military cooperation, he executed security assistance, security cooperation and humanitarian assistance programs under US Ambassador direction.
Since September 2007, Herndon has served as Chief of Support Branch for the Plans and Policy Directorate under the United States Africa Command. Following the United States ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention in 2009, he undertook a course in International Human Rights Law at Oxford University to better understand proper implementation of international treaties.
Promoted to full colonel in January 2011, Colonel Herndon now manages a wide range of projects and strategies for enhanced theater security cooperation with nine African countries as Chief, Regional Division – Central Africa (J-56) at USAFRICOM in Stuttgart, Germany. Most recently, working with LTC Joris Kila (Royal Netherlands Army), Colonel Herndon included Cultural Property Protection as an annex to the USAFRICOM Theater Campaign Plan 2000-12.
Colonel Herndon has received numerous awards from the United States Departments of Defense and State, including the Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Honor Award.
LTC Joris D. Kila (Royal Netherlands Army)
Dr. Joris D. Kila is a researcher at the Alois-Musil-Center für Orientalische Archäologie and the Kompetenzzentrum Kulturelles Erbe und Kulturgüterschutz at the University of Vienna. He also serves as a reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Netherlands Army. He holds degrees in art history and classical archaeology from Leiden University and received a Ph.D. in cultural sciences in 2012 from the University of Amsterdam for his dissertation Heritage under siege: military implementation of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.
As acting chairman of the Cultural Affairs Department at the Dutch Civil-Military Co-operation Group North, LTC Kila undertook several military cultural rescue missions during the 1990s in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where he attempted to restore medieval murals in the Mattejce Monastery that had been damaged (with graffiti). After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was among the first civil-military cultural property experts to enter the country and was responsible for setting up protection at Uruk, which was one of the few sites in Iraq that had not been looted. See his report published in 2011.
As chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCuRWG), LTC Kila undertook three significant cultural emergency assessment missions, together with Karl von Habsburg (a Captain in the Austrian Armed Forces and president of the Association of National Blue Shield Committees).
In February 2011 LTC Kila travelled to Egypt with Captain Habsburg to assess damages and evidence of looting to Egyptian heritage sites and museums during the unrests that led to toppling of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Their Egypt mission report is available on the Austrian Blue Shield Committee website.
In September 2011 LTC Kila travelled to Libya with Captain Habsburg , during the midst of the Libyan revolution, on the first of two missions to assess the situation at Leptis Magna, Sabratha, and Tripoli to verify whether the cultural heritage no-strike list that had been provided to the US Defense Intelligence Agency and Allied forces had been successful in protecting Libya’s important sites. See their report of the September 2011 Libya mission. Two months later, after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, he returned to Libya with Captain Habsburg to assess the situation at Umm al Shuga, Tocra, Tometha, Qasr Libya, Cyrene, Apollonia, Darnah, Ras Halal and the Ras Almergib Castle near Benghazi. See their report of the November 2011 Libya mission.
In January 2014, following the unrest and widespread reports of cultural property destruction in northern Mali, LTC Kila travelled with Captain Habsburg to Mali, joined by Christo Grozev and Siratigui Sogoba from the Musée des Armées, Bamako, and traveling at times under the protection of members of the Malian military. The team visited a number of sites across the country, including Timbuktu to: document the condition of the sites; assess the impact of post-conflict problems such as illegal digging and illicit trafficking of cultural property; provide international solidarity with and support for those in Mali who protected their heritage under extreme difficult conditions; and encourage the Malian Armed Forces to further efforts to protect cultural property. Their January 2014 Mali mission report is available on the Austrian Blue Shield Committee website. An illustrated booklet titled Objectif dans Tombouctou will be published shortly.
Dr. Kila’s published works, many of which are included in the CCHAG Reading Room, have helped to define and demystify Cultural Property Protection as an academic discipline and an important ingredient in military policy. He is the recipient of many awards, including: the 2012 ”Blue Shield Preis” of the Österreichische Nationalkomittee Blue Shield (Wien) in Kooperation mit der Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (Den Haag) Award, bestowed at the Museum of Military History Vienna Austria; and the ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) 2012 Art Protection and Security award, received jointly with Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen.
In recognition of his efforts to protect cultural heritage in Iraq, LTC Kila was presented with the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany on May 4, 2012. To mark the occasion, LTC Kila gave a lecture on his work at the University of Amsterdam with a special focus on Libya.
Airman First Sergeant Darrel Pinckney
Mr. Pinckney is a professional archaeologist from the Albany, NY area who deployed to FOB Warrior, home to the 506th Air Expeditionary Group, at Kirkuk, Iraq in 2008. The military base, which had been built by the Saddam Hussein regime atop and adjacent to the 15th-14th century BC Akkadian city of Nuzi (modern name: Yorghan Tepe), was the source of many antiquities that were found and returned to local authorities by a team lead by Captain Cole Calloway (see above). But, aside from the problem of artifacts, each time the US attempted any form of infrastructure improvement requiring ground disturbance, engineers encountered archaeological material and risked damaging local mosques and a cemetery that the Iraqi military had built for internment of deceased Iraqi soldiers.
To help solve this problem, Airman First Sergeant Darrell Pinckney volunteered to act as a cultural resources manager and proceeded to create a detailed archaeological map of the entire post, which showed that some portions of FOB Warrior were more sensitive than others. Airman Pinckney‘s map made it possible to plan future projects with minimal archaeological disturbance. He also managed the protection of the mosques and cemeteries located on the FOB and served as first responder when a project uncovered artifacts so that challenges could be resolved quickly and effectively.
Airman Pinckney described the conditions he encountered at Kirkuk in the essay ‘Time is not on my Side’, published in the book Archaeology, Cultural Property, and the Military, edited by Laurie W. Rush. He also presented his findings at the World Archaeological Conference in Dublin, Ireland, in 2008. Darrell currently teaches artifact preservation and conservation courses at Schenectady County Community College for the Community Archaeology Program (CAP).
Captain Benjamin Roberts
A graduate of Western Carolina University (B.A. in anthropology) and Kennesaw State University [B.A. in GIS (geospatial information systems)] and the University of Georgia (masters degree in Historic Preservation), then-Lieutenant Benjamin Roberts served most of his tour in Iraq as a Platoon Leader in a Combat Engineer (Sapper) Company.
Temporarily assigned to serve as a liaison between a task force comprised of elements of the 926th Engineer Brigade and the 1st Battalion of the 21st Infantry Regiment — known as Task Force Iron Gimlet — Ben Roberts managed a project that was kick-started by 425th Civil Affairs Battalion Headquarters Company Commander Cole Calloway in 2008-09 to improve the tourism infrastructure around the 4,500 year old Ziggurat at Aqar Quf, west of Baghdad.
As Roberts said in a 2013 interview, ”the scope was for the renovation of the once thriving visitor center/museum, café, and surrounding public space, and did not involve any work on the ancient ruins of the ziggurat or the nearby village associated with the site.” Lieutenant Roberts recommended using Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds to support hiring local contractors to rehabilitate the site. “As a preservationist, I was adamant that as U.S. Soldiers, we should not get involved in or be seen doing anything dealing with working on or altering the actual ancient structures at the site and emphasized the importance of staying neutral in terms of how we were viewed as supporting the local government. It was a delicate balancing act as I was not there as a preservationist or CRM professional, but as an U.S. Army engineer officer.”
Ben Roberts’ successful effort resulted in continued protection of the site as the ziggurat resumed its important symbolic and economic role within the community.
From 2006 until early 2013, Diane Siebrandt served in an exemplary manner as the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Liaison Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Having served as a cultural heritage analyst for the Department of Justice’s Iraq Mass Grave Project, few American civilians were better attuned to the Iraqi people and their plight than Ms. Siebrandt. In her new post, she hit the ground running and succeeded beyond all expectation in bringing together Iraqi and American civilians, academics, military personnel, and government officials in the effort to preserve Iraq’s archaeological resources for future generations.
Siebrandt implemented a wide range of initiatives in Iraq. She brought museums and universities in the U.S. into partnership with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage to establish a conservation center to train Iraqi museum professionals. She helped procure State Department funding for the World Monuments Fund to develop a sustainable management plan for the site of ancient Babylon. She joined U.S. military experts and Iraqi archaeologists to document ongoing threats to the Assyrian imperial capital of Ashur. She accompanied many American and other foreign archaeologists on surveys to document the looting of Iraqi sites. She championed the efforts of Iraqi archaeologists and private citizens to protect their nation’s cultural patrimony. And she managed to cut through red tape so that university researchers could assist the U.S. military in reducing damage to Iraq’s smaller, but no less valuable, ancient settlements. These and other contributions in support of the mission are described in this story on the US Army website.
A true diplomat, she achieved remarkable and highly visible results. In recognition of her efforts, Ms. Siebrandt received the 2010 Outstanding Public Service Award by the Archaeological Institute of America. Having left the State Department in early 2013, she is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Deakin University in Melbourne Australia. Again, she hit the ground running, becoming a finalist in Deakin’s 2013 “Three Minute Thesis” competition. Her thesis focuses on assessing the relationship dynamics that existed between US/coalition troops and Iraqi archaeologists during all phases of the Iraq War, and what affect those relations had on protecting archaeologist sites.
Major William Sumner
After the invasion of Baghad, Major William “Wes” Sumner, a trained archaeologist who served as a captain with the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, worked with an American task force at the Iraq National Museum, made up of Army CID, Treasury, FBI, Customs and other federal agents. Sumner’s task was to help create an inventory of thousands of artifacts in the collection that had been stolen, and many that not been stolen — a necessary task since the looters who entered the museum ransacked offices that contained these vital records. This inventory would make it more difficult to sell the artifacts on the open market.
Major Sumner was also among the first US military personnel to visit the Baghdad Zoo, which has been home to hundreds of animals before the war. The Zoo was devastated. Hundreds of animals were missing, and the few remaining were in desperate need of care … and extremely hungry. One of the first questions that Captain Sumner had to answer: how much food does a Bengal tiger or African cheetah or brown bear need each day, each week and over the course of a year? Together with an international team of zoologists, veterinarians, conservationists, and dedicated Zoo’s staff, who returned to work in spite of constant firefights, Captain Sumner worked to save the neglected—but tenacious—animals of Baghdad. The details of this saga are detailed in this story published on the US Army website.
Since completing his tour of duty in Iraq, Sumner has been assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command and promoted to major. He continues to support efforts at the Baghdad Zoo and has worked with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas. He holds master’s degrees in education and archaeology and is currently pursuing a doctorate in biodefense.
Major Corine Wegener (US Army Reserve, retired)
In May 2003, while serving as an Associate Curator in the department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Major Corine Wegener of the 407th Civil Affairs Battalion deployed to Baghdad as an Army Reservist. There she assisted the Iraq National Museum to recover from the looting of the museum; she also helped experts from the U.S. National Archives to salvage tens of thousands of waterlogged books and documents comprising the archives from Iraq’s ancient Jewish community, which were found in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters. She returned to the U.S. with the damaged books and documents in 2004. The materials have since been conserved, inventoried and put on display. The return of the books and documents to Iraq is now the subject of negotiation and a recent resolution by the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Wegener’s efforts also led to the development of an official Arts, Monuments, and Archives training aid for U.S. military personnel. In 2006, Wegener founded the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, the U.S. branch of a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of cultural property worldwide during armed conflict. The Blue Shield’s many activities have included projects to preserve cultural property after the earthquake in Haiti.
Protection of Cultural Property in Areas of Crisis: the View of a Military Archaeologist
By Laurie W. Rush, Ph.D., RPA, FAAR. Published by Predella – September, 2013 – The United States Department of Defense has had an archaeology stewardship program for over 20 years with professional archaeologists identifying and protecting archaeological sites on the military bases where they work. When news that the presence of US military forces had resulted in damage at Babylon traveled around the world, many archaeologists who work for the military realized that there was a tremendous need to educate military personnel about the archaeology and cultural property of countries not only where they may engage in conflict, but also in areas of disaster response, and even in cases of military construction and participation in humanitarian aid projects. As a result, beginning with the archaeology staff at Fort Drum, New York, who also work in support of the US Army’s Tenth Mountain Division, the United States Department of Defense began a program to work on teaching US military personnel about cultural property protection. The team found that for military initiatives to be successful, there had to be three components; educating soldiers, making sure that military planners knew the locations of important property, such as archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and holy places, and that there would be laws and military rules to be followed as a requirement for protecting cultural property….. Read more→
Syrian Heritage Under Extreme Attack
By Omar Almuqdad Global Arab Network. Since its beginnings in 2011, armed conflict in Syria has escalated dramatically with major human loss, hundreds of thousands of refugees, and extensive damage to infrastructure and properties. Cultural heritage in all its forms has suffered from the direct and indirect effects of this ongoing conflict. Syria’s World Heritage sites together with numerous cultural properties of national and local significance are at serious risk.
In addition to the Syrian civil war’s horrible human and economic costs, the conflict has also devastated Syria’s cultural heritage. At a February UNESCO conference, the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) called the looting “more damaging” than the fighting that is ravaging mosques, old houses, and Crusader castles.
Only three per cent of Syria’s heritage sites remain outside areas of conflict, according to a map released by the United States State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit. A 2012 Global Heritage Fund report also makes for grim reading: All UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria have been affected by the war, from the old cities of Aleppo and Damascus to the Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers to the Roman city of Bosra.
One theft acknowledged by the Syrian authorities to have taken place involved a golden statue of an Aramaic God from the 8th century BC. The statue was considered one of Syria’s most important symbols. A picture of the statue was put on the Stolen Works of Art Red List published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), while Interpol and the World Customs Organization were also notified. Despite the fact that the statue has been on Interpol’s most wanted list since last December, it has yet to be recovered.
The Syrian authorities have also reported thefts in the museums of Deir al-Zor, Maarat al-Naman, al-Raqqa and Qalaat Jaabar, and journalists have confirmed that the museums of Homs and Hama were looted months ago. Here, pundits agree that one major drawback is the lack of adequate documentation in place in museum warehouses. With the absence of serial numbers and photographs that confirm items belong to a museum, many artifacts disappear into the market, and there is no real possibility of recovery.
Last year, shelling damaged the walls of the Crac des Chevalier – a magnificent crusader-era castle overlooking the Jebel Libnan ash-Sharqiya (Anti-Lebanon Range) – that Lawrence of Arabia described simply as “the finest castle in the world”.
Museums have also been targeted. In the Maarat al-Numan Museum in Northern Syria that once housed the largest collection of mosaics in the Middle East, everything moveable has been stolen. Of what remains, the destruction from ongoing air raids is heart breaking.
When I asked one of the smuggler who call himself “Abu Moazz” in turkey : who brings these items from Syria, he said it is not the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group in Syria, but rather individuals or small gangs often claiming to be fighters who secure the items and smuggle them across the river into Turkey.
Life’s been taken away, buildings been destroyed, million and half people became refugees, and history for sale. Welcome to the new devastated Syria. Text © copyright 2013 Omar Almuqdad. All rights reserved.