Lamia Al-Gailani Werr, who as one of the Iraq’s first female archaeologists helped her country’s national museum recover from the looting of its antiquities at the outset of the Iraq war, died on Jan. 18 in Amman, Jordan. She was 80.
Her daughter Noorah Al-Gailani said the cause was a stroke. Dr. Gailani had been in Amman attending a workshop that trains curators to help protect and promote the cultural heritages of Iraq and Syria.
Dr. Gailani built her reputation as a widely respected scholar, curator and writer over nearly a half-century, living mostly in London but returning regularly to Iraq to do research. Her trip back to Baghdad in the spring of 2003 was for a purpose more immediately critical than research. United States-led forces had invaded Iraq that March in a futile search for weapons of mass destruction, and for days looters ransacked the Iraq Museum in the capital city.
Walking into the building, she encountered staff members in the lobby. “They were in such a state of shock that I remember not a single one of them was able to finish a sentence,” she recalled in an interview with the BBC in 2016. “It was eerie and terrible to see the museum empty like that.”
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