Iraqi archaeologists studying in Chicago

May 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) They have come from half way around the world to study their own country, Iraq. Five Iraqi archaeologists and one art conservator are at the Field Museum as part of a program to revitalize archaeology in their homeland. In a six month program they are studying the latest advances in their field.

"Their job now is to learn new techniques they were unable to learn about while under the regime of Saddam Hussein, when they couldn't leave the country," said Dr. James Phillips, Iraq Cultural Heritage Project director.

Dr. Phillips says that in the past 15 years or so technology in this field has advanced at an incredible rate and these Iraqi archaeologists have not been able to advance with it. But now, with a U.S. State Department grant, in the next two years 18 Iraqis will be trained by the Field Museum and the Oriental Institute.

Back in April of 2003, at the beginning of the Iraqi war, the Baghdad Museum was ransacked. But that was just the beginning, because for the past six years other archaeological sites have also been looted, and that's what this program is about.

"In the insurgency there was a wave of looting on the ancient cities. The world's first cities in fact in southern Iraq. Probably a quarter of these earliest cities on the planet earth have been extensively damaged by looters," said Dr. Gil Stein, Oriental Institute director.

But it's thought that there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of sites that have not been unearthed and looted. So there is still plenty of work to be done in Iraq.

"This training course helps us to save all these looting sites," said Shukran Salih, art conservator, Iraq National Museum.

Ancient artifacts up to 5,000 years old. They are still waiting to be discovered and restored.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.