An Iraqi Oil Ministry plan to extend an oil pipeline through ancient Babylon presents a major threat to the cultural heritage of one of the ancient world’s most important cities.
Babylon, the world’s largest city during portions of the second and first millennia B.C.E., features prominently in Biblical narratives and played a major role in the cultural development of the ancient Near East. The site has been harangued by constant threats in recent decades, including the construction of a palace for Saddam Hussein, the digging and leveling of terrain near the Ishtar Gate for the construction of a US military base and the extension of earlier pipelines in the 1970s and 80s.
Iraq has fought hard to preserve the cultural heritage of Babylon by trying to add it to the UNESCO World Heritage list, but the frequent damages have threatened the bid. The location of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Babylon was partially excavated in several stages during the 20th century, but given its massive size and millennia-long occupation, further archaeological investigation is necessary.
The General Authority for Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq has filed a lawsuit against the Oil Projects Committee in an attempt to prevent the construction of the pipeline, which would pass through the wall of the 1,400 year old castle known as the Babil Fortress.