Tomb raiders

Former arts minister Mark Fisher writes in the Guardian that the cradle of civilisation is still being looted. He asks: How important is this? For the Iraqis, the damage strikes at the heart of their culture and history. Although the Iraq National Museum was founded only in 1923, it was an institution around which all Iraqis, regardless of religion, could attempt to create some shared national identity. There is also considerable significance for the rest of the world: in these sites are buried the roots of western civilisation. A line of influence (philosophical, scientific, artistic, aesthetic) runs from Mesopotamia through Greece to Rome and on to us. This is the birthplace of historiography in that it was here, in Babylonia, in southern Iraq, that writing was invented 5,000 years ago, when cuneiform, etched on clay tablets, allowed the transmission of ideas, of achievements, of records.