National Geographic : 2003 Oct
MARK ALTAWEEL, ARCHAEOLOGIST We found unexploded tank shells all over Tell Billa, a site across ., the Tigris River from Mosul. Like several places in northern Iraq, it was damaged from being used as an S'S . *. S : Iraqi military camp. The army had been preparing for an expected coalition attack from the north, which , never came. Local villagers who found the live explo- . sives and told us about them were terrified but didn't ' know what to do. Fortunately we had global position ing system coordinates, GIS databases, and maps- *. critical tools for modern archaeologists-which s allowed us to report the location of the shells to the U.S. military at its head quarters in Saddam's former palace in Mosul. We also told them about unexploded ordnance near Khorsabad, an ancient Assyrian capital not far from Mosul. We hoped they would take care of it, but their to-do Mark Altaweel, right, tells aU.S. Army sergeant about list is long. When we the explosives near Mosul. visited Tell Billa again, we saw children playing with the explosives (top). Of course we realize that protecting archaeological sites is only one of the challenges for the future of Iraq. My family comes from Baghdad, and I am saddened to see what more than a decade of war, social isolation, and economic sanctions have done to this country's people." 0 Mark Altaweel is a Ph.D. candidateat the Universityof Chicago's OrientalInstitute.