YLE’s Tiedeykkönen reported on the destruction of ancient sites in Palmyra and Babylon

29.1.2020
YLE’s Tiedeykkönen reported on the destruction of ancient sites in Palmyra and Babylon by interviewing Director of the Centre of Excellence in Ancient Near Eastern Empires and Associate Professor in Ancient Near Eastern Studies Saana Svärd and Adjunct Professor and archaeologist Minna Silver.

Saana Svärd says that during its heyday Babylon was the largest city of the world and for people living in the area, Babylon and especially the temple of Marduk was the center of the world. Most Europeans know Babylon from the story of the tower of the Babel in the Bible. Svärd says that it is possible that the story was inspired by the fact that many different cultures and languages were present in Babylon.

Saana Svärd tells that Saddam Hussein saw himself as a descendant of King Nebuchadnezzar II and inspired by this, he started several building projects in Babylon in the 1980s. These projects were not aimed to preserve the history of the site, but rather to glorify Saddam Hussein. The new constructions were built on top of the ancient ruins without any proper conservation efforts. When the war in Iraq started, the American troops used the site as their military base, which caused even more damage to the ruins. Svärd says that it is likely that the troops did not realize the damage they were doing to the ancient site. The rise of Isis did not directly affect Babylon, but because of the overall confusion and chaos in the area, it was difficult to guard and preserve the site. Svärd is hopeful that because UNESCO recently added Babylon to its World Heritage Site –list, it might be easier to organize and fund its restoration in the future.

You can listen the program in Finnish here.