Archaeologist Dr. Donny George was the former Director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
I am simply doing my duty. I believe that if the time comes, I am ready to sacrifice my life to save any item of Cultural Property anywhere in the world. But what I am sure of is that I am not alone in this.Donny George
Born in Habbania, al-Anbar Province, on October 23, 1950, Dr. Donny George developed a relationship with the landscape of Iraq as a youth that inspired a lifetime of study of ancient cultures as both a scholar and archaeologist that has motivated colleagues around the world for more than three decades. While pursuing his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Baghdad, where he received his M.A. in Archaeology in 1986, Dr. George began his career at the Iraq Museum in 1976, where he held various positions. These include Director of the Documentation Center in 1980 and Field Director for the Babylon Restoration Project from 1986 through 1987. He conducted archaeological investigations in the eastern wall at Nineveh in 1988 and 1989 and served as Scientific Supervisor for the Bekhmeh Dam Archaeological Rescue Project (northern Iraq) in 1989. He was appointed Assistant Director General of Antiquities for the Scientific Affairs department in 1995, the same year he received his Ph.D. in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Baghdad. During 1999 and 2000, Dr. George directed the excavation team at Um al-Agarib (southern Iraq) and served as head of the Technical Committee at the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (which analyzes artifacts brought to the Iraq Museum voluntarily by the Iraqi citizens).
From 2000 to 2003 Dr. George served as Director General of the Department of Research and Studies at the Iraq Museum. He witnessed the fall of Baghdad, endured the subsequent looting of the Iraq Museum in April 2003, and played a central role in the restoration of the Museum and the recovery of nearly half of the estimated 15,000 artifacts stolen from the Museum and archaeological sites.
In recognition of his service, Dr. George was appointed Director-General of the Iraqi Museums in November 2003 and became a member of the Iraqi National Committee for Education, Science, and Culture in January 2004. In 2005, he left his position at the Iraqi Museums when he was appointed President of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, a position he held until he was forced to flee Iraq in August of 2006. He simultaneously held two academic positions as Lecturer Professor for Computer and Archaeology, Documentation, Anthropology, and Prehistory in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Baghdad, and Lecturer Professor at the College of Babylon for Theology and Philosophy.
His unique skills, knowledge of ancient Mesopotamian cultures, extensive field experience, and unflappable personality allowed Dr. George to rise above the tragic events that occurred in Iraq after the 1991 war and the events since 2003. The looting of the Baghdad Museum has attracted considerable media attention to the destruction of cultural heritage and the illicit antiquities trade worldwide, and has given Dr. George the audience that a lifetime of training and experience has equipped him to address. He is now a major force in bringing the world’s attention to the ruination of Iraq’s archaeological landscape, through his participation in conferences organized by Interpol, ICOM, AIA and UNESCO. He has given presentations on the conditions of archaeological sites and museums in Iraq at conferences and symposia at the British Museum and at UNESCO in Paris, Vienna, Essen and Mainz. He has also spoken at the “Archaeology in Times of War” conference in Bonn (2003), at meetings of the Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in London (2003), for the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies at the Royal Ontario Museum, and at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. He also maintains an active schedule of public speeches across the U.S. and has conducted interviews with various publications as well as PBS’s “Charlie Rose” program.
Dr. George is also a prolific author, having written Tell Es-Sawwan: Architecture of the Sixth Millennium B.C. (London, 1996) and The Stone Industries in Tell Es-Sawwan (London, 2005), as well as contributing to The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia (New York, 2005) and the forthcoming Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War (New York, 2008). He remains an active member of Interpol’s International Regional Committee, the German Archaeological Institute, the Society for American Archaeology, and is an Honorary Member of the Archaeological Institute of America. He currently holds the position of Visiting Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
AWARD CEREMONY AND RECEPTION
On the evening of Saturday, January 5, nearly a hundred people packed the Chicago Regency Hyatt’s Plaza Ballroom for the 2008 SAFE Beacon Awards. Among the crowd were professional archaeologists and scholars, students, and SAFE members, all eagerly awaiting the chance to see Dr. Neil Brodie and Dr. Donny George honored for their contributions to the field of cultural heritage.
SAFE had sold many dozens of tickets in the weeks and days leading up to the reception, but as the guests began to gather outside the ballroom, waiting for the event to start, there was a last minute surge in ticket sales, as many who had heard about the even through word-of-mouth arrived and waited patiently to see if there would still be room for them inside. Fortunately, SAFE was able to accommodate everyone who wished to come.
Inside, guests mingled, sipped wine, and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres. SAFE member and numismatist Nathan Elkins welcomed and thanked the guests for coming. After a few words about SAFE and its mission, Nathan introduced Dr. Neil Brodie, one of the two award winners who gave a short talk entitled “Academic Reception of Archaeological Manuscripts.” Afterwards, Dr. Brodie fielded questions from the audience, which turned into a lively debate amongst reception guests themselves!.
Dr. Brodie, an archaeologist whose expertise extends from ancient Britain to the Aegean Sea, was the former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre (IARC) at the University of Cambridge. He is also the author of thirty-nine articles and the co-author or editor of six books. He is currently the Director of Cultural Heritage Research at Stanford University’s Archaeology Center, and one of the leading figures in bringing cultural heritage issues to the public eye.
Afterwards, Cindy introduced the distinguished Dr. Richard Leventhal of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, who in turn gave an introduction to Dr. Brodie. Dr. Brodie then stepped up to receive his award certificate and say a few words of thanks.
Next, Cindy introduced the equally distinguished Dr. John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art. He provided the introduction to the night’s second award winner, Dr. Donny George. Dr. George, like Dr. Brodie, has devoted a large part of his scholarly career to raising awareness of the problems of looted antiquities. He had a long, notable career as an archaeologist in Iraq before being appointed Director-General of Research and Studies at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2000. In 2003 he witnessed firsthand the catastrophic looting of the Museum, and has since become a voice for the effort to recapture the Museum’s stolen artifacts, and the restitution of cultural property in general. After the introduction, Dr. George came to the podium to receive his award.
Guests mingled for the remainder of the evening and took advantage of the chance to talk to the two award winners-and take a few photos with them as well.
Thanks to our sponsors who participated in our Souvenir Journal, and our guests, SAFE volunteers (in Chicago and those who worked behind-the-scene), presenters and award winners, the reception was a great success. SAFE is pleased to honor these two archaeologists, who have done so much to raise awareness of cultural heritage issues. We are also proud that we were able to not only present them with awards, but throw a great party on their behalf!
A round of thanks to all who attended-we hope to see you soon at the next SAFE event.
Thank you for a job well done, SAFE Team Members:
Cynthia Bates, Blythe Bowman, Lilling Choo, Jessica Dietzler, Jessica Facciponti, Nathan Elkins, Keli Liu, Rachel Moland, Marina Papa-Sokal, Sarah Pickman, Genevieve Semple, Therese Rohrbeck, Rebecca Rushfield, Rob Wanner, David Yoon
Chicago was GREAT!!!Sam Paley, SAFE Member and Advisor
SPREAD THE WORD!
Saturday January 5, 2008
Plaza Ballroom B, Hyatt Regency Chicago 151 East Wacker Drive Chicago, llinois
Download souvenir journal here and “like” SAFE Beacon Awards on Facebook.
We thank the following organizations and individuals for their participation in the Souvenir Journal:
- The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)
- Archaeology Magazine
- Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology
- Assyrian National Council of Illinois
- College Art Association
- Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
- The Cultural Heritage Law Program of the Center for Intellectual Property Law and Information Technology, DePaul University College of Law
- Department of Art History and Archaeology and the Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri
- Foundation Stone, Inc.
- Heritage Watch
- Herrick, Feinstein LLP
- Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
- The Institute for the Visualization of History
- Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
- Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
- The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
- Near Eastern Archaeology
- New York University/Classics Department
- The Oriental Institute
- The Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs of Yeshiva University
- Sacred Sites
- Stony Brook University
- The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq
- Time Moving & Storage Inc.
- The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield
- Alexander and the 2006/07 Grade 5 Gifted class at Forest Hill P.S., Toronto
- Blythe Bowman
- Lynn Bowman
- Clemency Coggins
- Bonnie Czegledi
- Nathan T. Elikins
- Patty Gerstenblith
- David Gill
- Joseph A. Greene
- Phyllis Halterman
- Archer St. Clair Harvey
- John Henderson
- Morag Kersel
- Paula Lazrus
- Hilary Lehv and David Lehv
- Richard Leventhal
- Marina Papa-Sokal
- Joan Marie Squitieri
- Richard Peets
- Sarah Pickman
- Michael Rakowitz
- Colin Renfrew
- Lucille Roussin
- Nerissa Russell
- Elizabeth Simpson
- Elizabeth Stone
- Kathryn Walker Tubb
- Anne Underhill
- Peter Watson
- Paul Zimansky