U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Awards Grant for the Ishtar Gate and Other Landmarks at Ancient Babylon

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 23, 2010

The 6th-century BC Ishtar Gate is one of several landmarks at the ancient site of Babylon in Iraq that will receive much-needed conservation attention under a $2 million grant from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). Established by Congress and marking its 10th year, the AFCP has demonstrated America’s respect for the cultural heritage of other countries by supporting more than 645 projects worldwide. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) will carry out the four-year project in partnership with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The former imperial capital of Kings Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar in southern Mesopotamia from the 18th to the 4th century BC, Babylon was once one of the largest and most influential cities in the world. The Ishtar Gate, Nabu-sha-Khare temple, inner city walls, and other landmarks at this renowned archaeological site are in urgent need of comprehensive conservation to reverse decades of deterioration due to environmental and other factors. The project includes archaeological site preservation, environmental monitoring, and training in the conservation of earthen architecture.

For more than 45 years, WMF has worked with communities around the world to support the preservation of their endangered architectural and cultural heritage. This AFCP-supported collaboration with the SBAH at Babylon developed from a broader preservation community concern for Iraqi cultural heritage that has included placing archaeological sites in Iraq on the World Monuments Watch and a WMF-Getty Conservation Institute joint initiative to create a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for archaeological and heritage sites in Iraq to assist with conservation, planning, and monitoring for sites under SBAH jurisdiction. The goals of this work are to develop appropriate conservation solutions, to incorporate holistic preservation approaches embracing environmental, social and economic factors, and to expand SBAH capacity to be an effective steward of Iraqi cultural heritage.

The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is administered by the Cultural Heritage Center of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which supports the foreign affairs functions of the U.S. Department of State that relate to the preservation of cultural heritage. The Center also administers U.S. responsibilities relating to the 1970 UNESCO Convention to reduce pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural property.

Media Contact: Catherine Stearns, (202) 632-6437 or StearnsCL@state.gov

PRN: 2010/1701