Another reason to be sceptical about stories on the internet surfaced late last year, with images of a clay object that looked a lot like an old Nokia style mobile phone, complete with Sumerian style cuneiform characters on clay buttons. Turned out of course that it was simply an art piece that someone had taken the photo of and wrapped a fake story around it. Was pretty obvious it was a hoax to begin with but it's sad how quickly these stories can be circulated at face value, without any form of fact checking.
Not sure how or why I missed this, but late last year the Iraqi transport minister (Kazem Finjan) held a press conference and claimed the worlds first airport was built by the Sumerians in 5,000BC, roughly 370km south east of Baghdad. It gets better - apparently it was used to launch space ships to travel to other planets. Ah, science.
Amazingly, he's still around. Most recently he was accused of pushing his way into the cockpit of a commercial airline carrying 200 passengers, demanding to land the plane himself. i like the quote "The minister did not do a good job. He slammed the front of the plane into the ground, sending the passengers into a panic". Perhaps planes were easier to land 7,000 years ago....
In April 2003, the Iraq Museum was looted with an estimated 15,000 (and possibly more) objects stolen or destroyed. It was a terrible moment in our world history, and a tragic loss. I could never condone what happened, but I can understand what drove some of the people to steal valuable objects at the time - they needed food to keep alive, this was a way to get money, it was a period of great uncertainty, and people are more important than objects. More recently, the murder of innocent people and destruction of Palmyra in Syria was a crime against all humanity, and sadly that amazing historical site is gone now forever, our only record of its existence being the photos taken before it was destroyed.
The good news however is that since the Museum in Iraq was looted, many of the objects have been recovered. The museum has now reopened, although many items are still yet to be recovered, and in fact may never be recovered. Some information about what has happened is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35774900