The sound of hammers echoes on ancient bricks as Iraqi workers fighting damage from wind, water and modern history dealing with shore up the crumbling walls of Babylon.
“If we don't do something, in the next 10 years they will disappear completely”Says Thierry Grandin, a World Monuments Fund consultant who oversees workers erecting wooden scaffolds to stabilize the 2,600-year-old north side walls. The capital of the Babylonian empire, one of the wonders of the ancient world, has fallen into bad times.
Alone a part has been excavated 4000 years old, but the ruins above the ground have been eroded by wind and salt water, and the damage caused by reconstruction ordered by former president Saddam Husseinin the 1980s and the most recent US military occupation.
- Wall of babylon
The Iraqi leader's project to rebuild the walls, literally in his own name, has created a imaginary version of the ancient city which has done more damage to the remains of the city. Also hampered conservation of the ruins. Despite the historical and religious significance of Babylon, UNESCO htwice rejected Iraq's offer to add the city to the list of places World Heritage.
“The main reason for this rejection is due to intervention during the Saddam Hussein era”, Says Jeffrey Allen, consult of the World Monuments Fund that heads the conservation project since 2009. “There have been large-scale interventions in Babylon that changed the dynamics and appearance of the site. They put the integrity of the original remains at risk”.
Within the limits of the ancient city, on a hill above the excavated ruins, Hussein built a modern palace overlooking the ancient. The bricks inscribed with "in the era of Saddam Hussein”Echo those marked in the reign of biblical king Nebuchadnezzer. The empty spaces in the walls mark where I was browsing while US soldiers controlled the area, Iraqi antiquities officials say.
The fragile walls of the ancient city they are now under heavier modern bricks pressing the adobe originals and a table that is raised to send and filter salt water found on the walls. In the 1980s, concrete was poured directly over the original bricks. The conversation project is mapping the damage with a three-dimensional scannerbrick by brick to see how to stabilize the site and change the drainage pattern.
“If you taste the water it will taste salty here in Babylon, and that attacks the bricks and destroys them and turns them to dust”Says Allen, undoing a brick with a salty coating of 2,000 years old in your hands.
International visitors that local authorities would like to attract are limited by diplomats with armed guard and occasionally a French tour group marvels that they really are in Babylon. It is a popular place for Iraqi school groups. On a recent weekend, the high school girls were laughing as they took photos of each other. A tour guide chased away a group of young people with tambourines who were trying to climb the basalt lion that was the symbol of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war.
“Babylon is a city that belongs to the whole world. It is a global heritage, not just Iraqi heritage, so we are trying to open its doors to tourism", He says Salah Hassan Bihaya, a provincial official in charge of promoting development. Their challenges include a almost complete lack of infrastructure, the post-military history of Babylon as a militarily closed place, and, until recently, the security that has driven everyone away except for the most determined visitors.
New UNESCO offer: Babylon and her conquerors.
Building his own palace in the 1980s, Hussein built a helipad and infrastructure what did of Babylon an attractive site for American military leaders seeking a military base after the ousting of the Iraqi leader. American forces remained there for six months before leaving the Polish forces in charge of the sector.
A report from the British Museum details what they call significant damage to the site during the military occupation, including leveling parts of the ancient city that had not yet been excavated.
Not far from the walled city, a military guard post he still stands amidst coils of barbed wire and stacks of sandbags. Baptized as ‘Warsaw Gate’, is now strangely deserted. Reeds have covered the way used by military vehicles and unique birds that are in migration are returning to the area.
Allen says that the next proposal to UNESCO for list Babylon as a World Heritage site protected will include rebuilding the Saddam era and even the military occupation of the United States.
It says that along with the overall conservation plan, the Iraqi State Council of Antiquities has called for help in maintenance of what remains of the presence of the Polish and American military. The new proposal holds that Babylon should not be regarded as the immaculate remains of an ancient city, but as something broader, a city that from the earliest days of civilization he adapted to the whims and desires of his conquerors.
“The narrative has spreadAllen says. "From Hammurabi and the Bronze Age, all the way to Saddam and the military occupation of the place. This is what we are trying to do, to spread to the world that this is a landscape of cultural evolution, not an archaeological monument of a moment in time”.
With a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was a child I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.