Archaeologists Scramble to Restore Babylon

Work begins for first time since US invasion
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 3, 2011 7:53 AM CST
In this May 1, 2010 photo, guards are seen at a reproduction of the Ishtar gate in the ancient city of Babylon in southern Iraq.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
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(Newser) – Archaeologists are once again digging into the ruins of Babylon and the rest of Mesopotamia, left unexplored since the American invasion of Iraq, the New York Times reports. “There is great potential at this site. You could excavate the street plan of the entire city,” says an expert. As new sites are brought to light, conservationists have made a plan to restore and protect Mesopotamian remnants—like the foundation of the 2,500-year-old Ishtar Gate—aided by a $2 million grant from the US that will help preserve key ruins.

The World Monuments Fund is identifying the biggest threats to the ruins, like erosion. Meanwhile, a site museum is set to reopen this month. After a war (during which the US turned Babylon into a base that was occupied by Polish troops) and heavy residential development in the area, restoration will be difficult—but officials are taking the long view, and hope that visits from academics and tourists will ultimately make Babylon as economically useful to the country as oil.

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