IMAGE: LOOTED IRAQI SITE
World Monuments Fund
The World Monuments Fund listed the entire country of Iraq as an endangered cultural site because of widspread looting at archeological sites like this one.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/22/2005 12:48:09 PM ET 2005-06-22T16:48:09

The entire country of Iraq, often called the cradle of civilization, has made the list of most endangered cultural sites, joining others from 55 countries that include a Modernist building in New York and a hut in Antarctica.

“This is the first time we have listed a country as endangered, and I think that we can all understand that every site in Iraq that is significant in terms of cultural heritage is at risk today,” Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund, said in announcing the list of 100 sites on Tuesday.

Thousands of important sites in Iraq are at risk from war, looting and neglect, Burnham said.

“It is not only the heritage of Iraq that is at stake here ... it is in fact world heritage,” said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, Iraq’s deputy U.N. ambassador, who attended the news conference at the New York offices of the fund, a nonprofit organization.

More than a thousand artifacts have been stolen from the region only to resurface on the international market, the deputy ambassador said.

Art, archeology experts weigh in
By focusing attention on the sites, the fund seeks to raise money for their protection and to spur local governments to protect their cultural heritage. The list, issued every two years, is chosen from nominations made by a broad array of experts in archeology and the arts.

The endangered sites span the globe and include locations in Italy, India, China, Peru, Mexico, Syria, Ireland, Indonesia, Samoa and Nepal. Other sites on the list include:

  • The Segovia Aqueduct in Spain, described as "a miracle of Roman engineering."
  • The ninth-century Haji Piyada Mosque in Afghanistan.
  • American author Ernest Hemingway’s house “Finca Vigia” built in 1886 in Cuba.
  • The West Bank of the Nile in Egypt, which includes such sites as the Valley of the Kings.
  • Mexico City's historic downtown center.
  • The Panama Canal area.
  • Australia's Dampier Rock Art Complex — the oldest site on the list, dating back to circa 10,000 B.C.

20th-century sites
There also are nine 20th-century sites. They include:

  • Architect Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, Penn., which is facing demolition in 2007.
  • Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 expedition hut in Antarctica.
  • Architect Edward Durell Stone's 1965 Modernist building at 2 Columbus Circle in New York.
  • The historic center of Asmara, Eritrea, a unique urban environment that fuses Italian modernism with African highland culture.

The Cyclorama Center was commissioned by the National Parks Service to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War in the 1960s. “Now, 40 years later, they’ve decided that it’s redundant,” Burnham said.

Stone’s modernist design was dismissed by former New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable as “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.”

It is now the subject of a fight between preservationists and the Museum of Art and Design, which plans to renovate it and move in. World Monuments Fund Vice President John Stubbs said the group agrees with preservationists that the dispute should be taken up by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“We feel that heritages of all sorts deserve their day in court,” he said. “They said the Eiffel Tower was ugly and should be torn down, that Gaudi’s great work in Barcelona was ugly and should be torn down.”

Background on each site is available online at www.wmf.org/html/programs/resources/bycountry.html.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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