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Over time, the truth trickled out, and it was less dramatic than the tale of the "sack of Baghdad" told by the archaeologists.Though severe, the looting of the museum was far less devastating than originally represented.British, French, German, and American teams competed for access to the choicest sites.In a spirit of adventurous rivalry, they unearthed the great mounds of Assyria, such as Nineveh and Nimrud, and then those of Babylonia.Outbreaks of nationalism periodically disrupted archaeological work and soured attitudes to Westerners.
Seizing upon tiny bits of available information, Western archaeologists created their own narrative of events and aggressively promoted it through the world media."He believes he is in that grand tradition, so destroying it does not fit in with his self-image." As recently as 2001, a Western reporter visited the Iraq National Museum and was told by one of its officials, Donny George (also the foremost spokesman of Iraqi archaeology), that Hussein read his reports and returned them with careful notes in the margins. For foreign archaeologists, including Americans, Hussein's obsession with antiquity created ideal working conditions.They enjoyed close relations with Iraqi authorities, zealous protection of their sites, and plenty of logistical support.Archaeology also played an important role in the development of Iraqi national identity.Ruling elites manipulated the past, and school curricula emphasized Mesopotamian originality, Semitic (thus, pan-Arab) authority, and Assyrian and Babylonian imperial power. The relationship of Western archaeologists to the rulers of independent Iraq varied over the years.