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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • POLAND’S CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS IRAQI CULTURAL HERITAGE


  • (protection, research, training, UNESCO)

     

     

    Always a key part of the Middle East, Iraq has been the object of successful research by Polish scholars ever since the 1930s. Iraqi cultural heritage is exceptionally rich, especially in outstanding architectural monuments and archeological sites of worldwide importance. The Ancient Mesopotamian heritage in particular is what made Iraq a focus of interest for the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University.

     

    1. Stanisław Jasiewicz’s work in the Iraq National Museum in Bahgdad (1962-1967)
    Conservator Stanisław Jasiewicz of the National Museum in Warsaw was a respected expert involved in museum display activities, favoring in his conceptions an approach that was considered radical in his time, namely, the presentation of objects from all sides and not only lined up alongside a wall. In appreciation of his achievements in this field, the International Council of Museums entrusted Jasiewicz with the important and prestigious task of designing and arranging a display of ancient objects at the new building of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad (1962-1967). His job was to choose and display the most representative monuments of ancient Mesopotamia from among the thousands of objects collected in the museum. The exhibition was arranged in seventeen halls, following a chronological order of presentation. It was a professional exhibition, including glass cases, varied lighting, and colour backgrounds chosen to complement the objects on display. The educational role of the exhibition was substantial and it remained open in the Baghdad Museum for several years. Preserved from the time of Jasiewicz’s work in Baghdad, is his mainly black&white photographic documentation of near to a thousand museum objects. The collection includes all the most important ancient pieces, views of particular exhibition halls and panoramas of archaeological sites. Mr S. Jasiewicz handed over the whole documentation pertaining to the Iraqi National Museum to the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The Polish Side prepared the inventory of the documentation and included all the set into a special web (www.bagdad.iam.pl). On March 11, 2010 H. E. Amb. Stanisław Smoleń – Chargé d’Affaires a. i. of the Republic of Poland in Iraq has handed over a computer set with this special internet web site with the documentation of the National Museum of Iraq to Mr Qais H. Rasheed, Chairman of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). The ceremony took place in the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad in the presence of Dr Emira Edan, Director General of the National Museum of Iraq and Eng. Faeza Abdulkader Hussein, General Director of the Maintenance of the Archaeological Sites Department of the SBAH.

     

    2. Archaeological and conservation work in Iraq

    Despite a long history of Oriental studies in Poland, Iraq did not enter the scope of activities by Polish archaeologists and conservators until quite recently. Once it did, however, field research was carried out in various parts of the country, covering virtually all the most important periods in Mesopotamian history, from prehistory until Islamic times. Actual excavations were initiated in the 1970s, the first site being Nimrud, undoubtedly among the richest from the historical point of view. In the 1980s, Polish expeditions were invited by the Iraqi Organization of Antiquities to participate in archaeological salvage projects connected with the construction of water reservoirs on the Diyala, Euphrates and Tiger. The work brought interesting results and enriched the collections of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.


    A team directed by S. K. Kozłowski and W. Chmielewski investigated Paleolithic sites in the Haditha area, especially the Masnaa complex of sites. This direction of research was continued on M’lefaat within the framework of the Eski-Mosul project (S.K. Kozłowski, R. Mazurowski). On Nemrik 9, a site situated on the eastern bank of the Tiger, S.K. Kozłowski uncovered semi-sunken built constructions of Early Neolithic attribution, originating from the 8th-7th millennium BC. The inhabitants of this village turned out to be sedentary pastoralists with knowledge of domesticated animals. They also produced stone sculpture: archaeologists uncovered more than a dozen stone figures depicting, among others, heads of birds, perhaps the head of a lioness and a snake, not to mention a human male head with tattooed cheeks. These are the oldest known examples of Mesopotamian art and evidence of the beliefs of inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia in the Neolithic.


    A prehistoric settlement with Ubaid cultural occupation of the 5th millennium BC was discovered at Tell es-Saadija on the Diyala (S. K. Kozłowski, P. Bieliński). At Tell Raffaan in the valley of the Tiger, P. Bieliński recorded evidence of a settlement representing the middle Uruk culture (4th millennium BC). A nearby multi-layered occupation site located on Tell Rijim (4th-1st millennium BC) included a richly furnished grave of the Niniveh 5 culture and a settlement dating from the Khabur-ware period.


    An expedition headed by J. Meuszyński carried out combined reconstruction and excavation work on the monumental ruins of the North-West Palace, the residence of Neo-Assyrian rulers of the 9th century BC, in ancient Kalchu (Nimrud). A full archaeological and architectural documentation was completed of the disposition of reliefs in particular units of the complex. On the island of Bijan on the Euphrates, a Neo-Assyrian fortress of the 7th century merits special attention (M. Gawlikowski, M. Krogulska). At the important Parthian site of Hatra, the city defenses were traced in the field (M. Gawlikowski).


    Since November 2003 until October 2008 the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage delegated archaeologists to the Polish Military Contingent deployed in the central southern part of Iraq for the sake of documentation, intervention and protection of the archaeological monuments located there, the core land of ancient Babylonia and Sumer http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/cma/2007/00000008/00000002/art00004). In close co-operation with Iraqi archaeologists, forty-six projects valued at circa 1,9 mln USD had been implemented, involving aerial and ground reconnaissance and salvage recording of the most threatened archaeological sites including Babylon (http://www.mk.gov.pl/kultura/1955.html). The Polish team has also conducted education and awareness training of the Coalition Forces detachments to promote respect for heritage.

     

    3. Educational and training activities
    For years both countries have been conducting an exchange of experts on cultural heritage to visit academic centres in both countries. In 2004 and 2007 five Iraqi archaeologists specializing in conservation received scholarships from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The Iraqi archaeologists spent six months in the Department of Conservation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw getting acquainted with the latest conservation methods of different types of objects.
    In May 2008 three professors from the Department of Archaeology of Al-Qadisiyah University in Al-Diwaniyah visited Poland. They signed several agreements (MoU) and letters of intent between Al-Qadisiyah University and Polish research establishments in Warsaw and Poznań.
    Mr Qais H. Rasheed, Chairman of the SBAH, Dr. Emira Edan, Director General of the National Museum of Iraq and Eng. Faeza Abdulkader Hussein, General Director of the Maintenance of the Archaeological Sites Department of the SBAH plan to visit Poland in 2010.

     

    4. On UNESCO forum
    Poland supports any international initiatives connected with Iraqi cultural heritage in UNESCO and in other international organizations. Since 2003 Prof. Piotr Bieliński, director of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University, has been a member of UNESCO’s International Co-ordination Committee for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage in Iraq.
    In 2007 the Government of Poland made a financial contribution to UNESCO with the aim to support the completion of the Babylon Assessment Report. The report was published in English and Arabic in June 2009 (http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Iraq/pdf/Report%20on%20Damages%20in%20Babylon.pdf).

    Mirosław Olbryś

     

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