Yale Professors Write Guide to the Archaeology and History of Iraq

“Iraq Beyond the Headlines,” an illustrated 275-page book.

In this illustrated 275-page book, titled “Iraq Beyond the Headlines,” Benjamin R. Foster and Karen Polinger Foster of Yale University and Patty Gerstenblith of DePaul University provide a concise and readable account of Iraq’s rich history and sound an alarm for the toll the war has taken on the country’s archaeological treasures.

In Chapters 1-13, Benjamin Foster, the William M. Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature, presents a vivid and highly readable history of a region to which much of Western culture traces its genesis. The invention of writing, the birth of cities, the rise of the world’s first empires, the codification of law under Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh are among the monuments of ancient Mesopotamian civilization that inform our own. In the time of the caliphs, Baghdad was not only one of the greatest cities in the Middle Ages, it was also the most important center for the transmission of Classical Greek philosophy and science to Western Europe. In addition, Iraq provides an object lesson in an ultimately unsuccessful colonial policy after World War I.

In Chapters 14-15, Karen Foster, who teaches ancient art and archaeology, traces the history of archaeology in Iraq from the early quest for biblical connections to the foundation of Iraqi antiquities organizations to the current rampant looting and destruction of museums, libraries and archaeological sites, many of which have never been scientifically excavated. Chapter 15 offers an illustrated guide to major pieces that have been stolen, damaged, or are still missing from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad since April 2003.

In the final chapter, Gerstenblith, who teaches cultural heritage law at DePaul University College of Law, reviews international and national laws and conventions for protecting objects of cultural heritage from theft and illegal trade.

“Iraq Beyond the Headlines: History, Archaeology and War” is published by World Scientific (Singapore) and is part of its series on the Iraq war and its consequences.

The book can be ordered on Amazon.com.

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Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345