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Cultural Property Protection
Types of Cultural Property
Approved Markings for Cultural Property
Recommendations when bedding down
Recommendations for engineering units
Iraq Cultural Property Law, 2002
The Impact of War on Iraq's Cultural Heritage

Applying the principles of cultural property protection during armed conflict requires that we:

    (1) recognize the types of cultural property that are most likely encountered
          in theater;

    (2) follow the basic "Dos" and "Don'ts"

    (3) understand the correct use of approved markings for cultural property
          to minimize the risk of damage; and

    (4) follow a few simple bed-down recommendations in the event that your
         unit is required to bed-down, or take up a temporary position at, or near,
         an archaeological or cultural heritage site, or follow the recommendations
         for engineering and construction units
for those operating in these
          sensitive areas.

Everyone serving in a region with cultural property subject to protection under The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict should familiarize themselves with the following:

Nine "Don'ts"



1. Don't assume that you understand archaeology unless you are a professional archaeologist.

What you don't know may cause you to violate General Order 1-A, or violate local laws, and thus undermine the mission by causing irreparable damage to protected cultural property. What you don't know can also injure you or your fellow soldiers.

        • Exploring or wandering through archaeological sites
           or protected cultural heritage sites without approval
           from the Officer in Charge (OIC) or Civil Affairs Officer,
           and without an expert, may cause troops to damage
           or disturb fragile surface soil or cause ancient structures
           to collapse. Looters who dig holes and tunnels searching
           for artifacts can weaken surface soil. And temporary
           sheds built years earlier by an archaeological team to
           cover a previously dug-out area may itself be covered
           with surface soil and become a hazard. One step onto a
           ground-level dirt-covered thin temporary roof sheltering
           a decades-old archaeological dig will likely cause the roof
           to collapse, causing potential injury. Conclusion: don't
           assume an archaeological site is particuarly safe place.

        • Lack of archaeological knowledge can cause needless
           collateral damage. Bedding down in the wrong place,
           digging in the wrong place ... failing to notice artifacts
           (that only a trained archaeologist can reliably identify)
           in surface soil being used to fill sandbags ... parking or
           driving heavy vehicles or landing helicopters or aircraft
           close to a cultural heritage site ... all of these decisions,
           which a CA Officer or archaeologist would never sanction,
           can permanently damage a site, damage relations with
           the host government, and create embarassing publicity
           that will damage the mission.

        • If you do encounter an artifact or historic structure in
           the field, don't assume that you know what you are
           looking at ... unless you are an expert. Valuable
           objects don't necessarily look "important" when they
           have been buried for a thousand years or thrown into
           a pile inside a cardboard box by smugglers. Important
           monuments do not always look "important" if they are
           damaged, or made of simple mud-brick. When in doubt,
           consult a CA officer or trained archaeologist, as well as
           your OIC.           




2. Don't enter any mosque, Islamic shrine or madrassa unless:

   (a) your presence is part of a general tour conducted
          with the permission of the local imam or religious
          official on the scene;

    (b) your entrance is the result of a direct order from an
          Officer in Charge (OIC); or

    (c) your entry is based on an imperative military
          necessity with no feasible or logical alternative .

General Order 1-A, subsection 2(a), states:

       "Entrance into a Mosque or other site of Islamic religious
        significance by non-Moslems unless directed to do so
        by military authorities, required by military necessity, or
        as part of an official tour conducted with the approval of
        military authorities and the host nation. This provision
        may be made more restrictive by Commanders when the
        local security situation warrants."







3. Don't assume you can avoid archaeological sites by looking at a map. 

Iraq has 12,500 registered archaeological sites and is thought to have more than 30,000 ancient sites, many of which are undocumented.

Most archaeological sites within CENTCOM AOR are not on any map.





  4. Don't drive over or across an archaeological or cultural heritage site. The damage that a Humvee, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a supply truck can cause to an archaeological site is incalculable. Drive around the site instead.  

  5. Don't dig into any flat ground or hill without first determining that it is not an archaeological site. As mentioned earlier, many archaeological sites look like natural hills.

Digging for any reason at an archaeological site without governmental approval is a violation of the cultural property laws of most nations (including the U.S., when the archaeological site is found on federal lands).


6. Don't pick up, disturb, or take any artifact that you find on the ground. Removing any object from an archaeological site is considered looting. The only exception to this general prohibition must involve a genuine and imperative military necessity, after considering other feasible and logical alternatives.

Taking artifacts without genuine military necessity constitutes a violation of General Order 1-A as well as a violation of the host country's antiquities law. (Such behavior would be a violation of U.S. law as well, if the artifact was found on federal lands.).

Don't climb upon or deface or physically alter any historic site or monument without a direct order from an OIC or an imperative military necessity, considering other logical or feasible alternatives. Doing so is disrespectful and a violation of General Order 1-A.

Don't attempt remedial action or restoration of any ancient building or site that you encounter.
These tasks are best left to Civil Affairs officers and staff, who possess the necessary skills, equipment and expertise.

Don't tolerate any archaeological souvenir hunting or vandalism by CENTCOM personnel. It is every soldier's and staff member's duty to report such behavior to the nearest OIC; failure to report may subject the individual(s) who remain silent to disciplinary measures or administrative review under the UCMJ.

Do not climb atop monuments or sculptures





  7. Don't purchase artifacts, antiquities or cultural heritage items [as defined in Iraq Law No. 55 and the Afghanistan Cultural Heritage Protection Law and the Egyptian Antiquities Law].

Purchasing artifacts that appear to be old from a street vendor or a shop while in theater is a fundamental mistake (see the 2004 court decision United States v. Joseph Braude).

Do not barter for or accept such items as gifts. And do not believe anyone who tells you that the item they are giving to you, or selling for a low price "doesn't need official papers" or is a modern reproduction, and is thus permitted to export; because if an object looks old, it probably is old, and may be confiscated by military inspectors or U.S. Customs when you leave the theater of operation.

Remember also that no dealer can provide the essential document needed to legally export an antiquity or cultural heritage object from Iraq or Afghanistan: a valid export permit. Only the government can issue such documents, and they rarely do so.




8. Don't engage in any construction projects at or near an archaeological or cultural heritage site without first consulting archaeologists from the national antiquities authority and receiving written authorization of a permit to proceed. 

Construction at an archaeological or cultural heritage site in Iraq or Afghanistan requires written permission from the culture minister or the state antiquities authority; proceeding without written permission would violate both nation's cultural property law (and would violate similar laws enacted by most countries in which DoD operates).

When in doubt, do not trust the expertise of local (non-archaeological) government authorities on such matters (they may grant permission without authorization in order to use a U.S.-led construction project as cover to carry out other illicit activities, such as site looting). In all cases, consult the appropriate authorities and receive the necessary permits before commencing construction.

To illustrate the point: consider the recent experience of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Kabul. During the spring of 2007, USACE received a request from the Afghan Military of Defense (MOD) to modernize buildings used by the MOD at the historic fortress in Kabul, the Bala Hissar, which is subject to protection under the Afghanistan cultural property law.

On day one of the project, archaeological remains were uncovered by an earth mover near the base of the fort. Work stopped immediately, and USACE discovered that the MOD hadn't received the required permission to proceed with the project from the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture. The Bala Hissar project has since been redesigned; no damage occurred to the Bala Hissar; and modern facilities for the Afghan MOD are being constructed by USACE elsewhere.

Engineering units that have permission to operate at, or near, a cultural heritage or archaeological site should review the construction and engineering recommendations found elsewhere in this training resource.






  9. Don't bed down or make first military use of an archaeological or cultural heritage site unless an imperative military necessity exists with no logical or feasible alternative.  

If circumstances require your unit to bed down or temporarily take up a position
on, or near, a cultural heritage or archaeological site, review the bed-down recommendations found on the next page of this training resource.

The occupation of Babylon by some 3,000 U.S. forces in 2003 raised questions, given the fact that
the ancient site did not constitute a strategic position. Holding the site served no valid military purpose,
and occupying the site turned Babylon into a potential military target. U.S. forces soon handed
over custody of the site to Polish forces (second photo from top),
which in turn transferred control to the Iraq Culture Ministry in Janaury 2005. Photo © 2003 PIKE Military Research.