Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Iraqi Archaeology and The Building of Nationhood, Subject of New Book by Williams College Historian

Magnus T. Bernhardsson, professor of Middle Eastern history at Williams College, is the author of "Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq."

The book, published by University of Texas Press, chronicles the history of archeology in Iraq and analyzes the strong link that has developed between archaeology and Iraqi nationalism.

The April 2003 looting of the Iraqi National Museum caused a world outcry at the loss of what was perceived as all of humanity's shared historical artifacts. This, however, was not the first time that Iraqi antiquities were plundered; the peoples of the Middle East have watched as time and time again Western archaeologists excavated and appropriated Iraqi antiquities, especially under the British Mandate.

Ought to be an interesting read. It's common enough to use archaeology and/or a sense of history to create a national identity -- even if much of it is more mythical than real. Egypt is interesting in that regard as it's almost always been a self-contained entity for the past 5,000 years, despite various stints as parts of larger empires. A modern configuration like Iraq is more complicated since the boundaries were created fairly recently and encompasses several different ethic groups with their own histories.