Archeologists defend biblical treasures from bombs
Iraqi archaeologists are risking their lives to guard some of the world's most important ancient treasures, many which are part of biblical and early church history.
The earliest biblical reference to the geographical area that now forms Iraq is in the Old Testament book of Jonah. Jonah came to bring the message of repentance to Ninevah, which is believed to be where the City of Mosul now stands.
The Iraqi Church itself can trace its lineage from the time of Pentecost. Tradition has is that the Apostle Thomas arrived and Addai, and the King of Assyria, repented for his people. According to Kenneth Scott Lautorette in his book ìThe History of Christianityî Assyria then became `the largest Missionary Force in History` carrying the gospel as far as China and Japan.
Mankind's earliest written documents, world-famous ancient sculptures, some of the earliest portrayals of gods, and ancient mathematical texts are among more than 100,000 treasures being guarded by 30 senior archaeologists at the Iraq Museum in the central Baghdad district of Salihyia.
The museum is at particular risk because it is adjacent to one of the city's main telephone exchanges, and just 700 metres from the foreign ministry which has been hit in air raids.
Some of the ancient texts describe the adventures of Gilgamesh, the figure on which some have claimed that Noah is based. Other texts reveal Iraq's mathematical prowess by describing the Pythagoras theorem, 1500 years before the Greek mathematician.
The archaeologists are trying to protect many of the spectacular sculptures and bas-reliefs with sandbags, and they are now living in the museum to defend the collection from possible looting.
There are also fears for the safety of internationally important archaeological and historic treasures in other parts of Iraq, especially at Mosul in the north. The town which has come under heavy bombardment by US forces is home to more than a dozen of the world's earliest churches.