An Interview with Dr. Samuel M. Paley

An archaeologist at SUNY Buffalo describes the archaeology of Iraq and how priceless Iraqi sites, artifacts and museums may be vulnerable to war.

The Interview:

The threat of war in Iraq has caused the Archaeological Institute of America to issue a statement urging that measures be taken to protect the archaeological heritage of that country. The AIA expresses concern regarding possible direct damage to sites, objects and institutions as well as the potential for looting of sites and museums. These concerns are shared by many archaeologists and others around the world, especially in the aftermath of the looting that took place in Iraq following the Gulf War.

To explore this topic and share with people everywhere an understanding of the urgency of the matter, we asked Dr. Samuel M Paley of the Department of Classics at the State University of New York at Buffalo to provide his perspectives in a telephone interview, which took place on February 21, 2003.

About Dr. Samuel M. Paley:

Samuel Michael Paley, Ph.D. is Professor in the Department of Classics of The University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Dr. Paley received his graduate education from the Departments of Art History and Archaeology and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Specializing in the archaeology and culture of the Ancient Middle East, he has excavated in Middle East for the last 40 years. He has served as director of the University at Buffalo's Emeq Hefer Project in Israel and has published the results of the excavation in an annual series of reports in Israel Exploration Journal and The Newsletter of the Israel Antiquities Authority (most recently in 1992). Since 1993 he has been the assistant director of the Alisar Regional Project Turkey. His great interest is Iraq and all his major publications have dealt with ancient Iraq's art and culture. His publications include essays on a variety of archaeological sites in the Near East, and books on the archaeology of Iraq--King of the World: Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (883-859 B.C.), The Brooklyn Museum, 1976; and with R. Sobolewski (Warsaw), The Reconstruction of the Relief Representations and Their Positions in the Northwest Palace of Kalhu (Nimrud), volumes II and II, Philipp von Zabern (1987 and 1992). He is presently working on Virtual Reality models of Nimrud, an ancient Assyrian capital (see links below). He believes these models will help students in the West gain a greater appreciation of an ancient culture whose homeland is in the northeast of Iraq. The destruction of sites through both natural and human causes can be partially preserved in our memories through virtual reality technologies.

1954 Hague Convention (International Council on Monuments and Sites)

AIA Urges Protection of Iraq's Archaeological Heritage (Archaeological Institute of America)

Fertile Crescent (Ancient History)

Mesopotamia (The British Museum)

Nimrud: Central Palace Area, 9th-8th centuries BCE (Dr. Paley)

Nimrud: Northwest Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II, 9th Century BCE (Dr. Paley)

Stolen Stones: The Modern Sack of Nineveh, by John Malcolm Russell (Archaeology Magazine)

The Tower of Babel: Archaeology, History and Cuneiform Texts (A.R George, London) (University of Maryland)