The New York-based World Monuments Fund is initiating a project at Babylon. A conservation and management plan will be developed with Iraq’s state board of antiquities and heritage, with technical advice possibly being provided by the Getty Conservation Institute.
Babylon, which dates back to 2300 BC and was at its height in around 600 BC (under Nebuchadnezzar II), was damaged by Coalition forces in 2003-04, when it became incorporated into a military base.
The Ishtar Gate suffered when looters attempted to remove decorated bricks from the magnificent animal images. Three anti-tank trenches were dug near the foundations of the stepped Ziggurat. A helipad was built close to the Ninmah temple. Part of the brick pavement of the Processional Way was broken by heavy vehicles. Under Saddam Hussein, part of the ancient site had been reconstructed and a modern palace was erected nearby.
The World Monuments Fund project will provide technical training for Iraqi antiquities staff, probably in Jordan, and the first workshop is expected to be held in May. The plan is to determine the extent of recent damage to Babylon and what can be done to ensure its long-term preservation. It is hoped that eventually Babylon will be inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'International backing for Babylon'