A group of America’s finest—28 Army soldiers from Fort Dix in New Jersey—visited the Penn Museum on Monday, Jan. 11, for a special tour of “Iraq’s Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur’s Royal Cemetery,” an exhibit that features 4,500-year-old art and artifacts excavated by Museum staffers in the 1920s-30s at the royal tombs of Ur.
The Museum is closed to the public on Mondays but was opened exclusively for the soldiers, some of whom have already served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
C. Brian Rose, deputy director of the Museum, welcomed the soldiers and gave a short introduction. Katherine Blanchard, keeper of the Museum’s Near East Section, led the tour.
Rose traveled to Fort Dix in November to speak to soldiers about cultural heritage issues and the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Museum visit was a follow-up opportunity for the soldiers to see and learn more about the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Staff Sergeant Stefanie Mason, who served in Iraq in 2004, recognized some of the relics from her time in Iraq. “I think it’s great having it preserved,” she says. “It’s important for people to see.”
Major Brian Stoll, who served in Iraq in 2003, examined an enlarged photograph of the Ur ziggarat, a large pyramid. “I toured around Ur for about a day. We got to go up onto the top of the ziggarat,” he says. Recalling his experience at the site, he noted, “There is a feeling of a presence of history.”
Sergeant Brian Diepa heard Rose’s November talk and remarked, “It was great. It motivated us to maintain and preserve their heritage.”
The soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan. For more information about the exhibit, click here.
Originally published on January 15, 2010