News: Working to restore Iraq's past for the future
By Spc. Brian Johnson
BAGHDAD — Soldiers from the 16th Engineer Brigade Survey and Design team conducted a site assessment on several buildings at an historic site in Aqar Quf, 20 miles west of Baghdad to assess and verify the electrical needs of renovating two modern structures at the base of an ancient ziggurat there.
The ziggurat, a stepped, temple tower, is the Mesopotamian equivalent of the Egyptian pyramids. Aqar Quf's ziggurat, rising 180 feet above the desert floor, was considered to be built more than three and a half millennia ago.
Recently, the Iraqi Ministry of Antiquities approached 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, for help with restoring some modern structures at the temple in order to attract visitors to the site which would revitalize the economy and preserve the temple.
The modern structures at the base of the ziggurat, built in the 1960s, functioned as a museum and administrative building throughout the second half of the 20th century. However, after years of war, the site is not what it once was.
"The administrative buildings have been degraded and looted," said Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Markel, from Chillicothe, Ohio, a member of the survey and design team.
According to Markel, the ziggurat and temple areas have suffered no damage but the modern buildings are in need of restoration work. The restoration, still in the planning stages, will eventually be completed by local Iraqi contractors.
"We came to the site to look at the electrical installation and to validate the existing scope of work for the electrical project," said Markel.
"The museum had nothing electrical left in it; no lights, no switches, and wires have been literally pulled out of the walls," said Spc. David Robbins from Cincinnati, Ohio, a member of the team, also sent to assess the site.
According to Robbins, even the electrical panels were removed from the museum and administrative buildings at some point, leaving holes in the walls.
"This was a functioning facility," said Markel. "It's now not functioning at all."
During their visit to Aqar Quf, Robbins and Markel had the opportunity to explore the ruins. They said the experience deepened their understanding of the significance of the museum and administrative buildings.
They were awe struck after exploring the ancient ruins.
"When I climbed the steps and was able to see the monument up close and the fine details about how it was constructed; it's impressive to think that 3,500 years ago someone had constructed this," said Markel. "It's an engineering feat because it is still standing after all these years."
Both Robbins and Markel said they hope their work will help reopen this historical site someday and bring tourists back to the area; including them.