Donny George, 60, protector of archaeological artifacts of Iraq

By New York Times News Service
Donny George, an esteemed Iraqi archaeologist who tried to stop the looters ransacking the Iraq National Museum after the invasion of 2003, then led in recovering thousands of stolen artifacts in the ensuing years, died Friday in Toronto. He was 60.

His friend Gwendolen Cates said he had a heart attack in the Toronto airport.

George fled Iraq in 2006 because of threats to his family. He was also angry that Iraq’s post-invasion politicians seemed interested mainly in archaeology pertaining to the Islamic conquest in the seventh century and its aftermath.

His passions were the older civilizations of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians. He directed a major excavation of Babylon.

George was director of research for the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage when U.S. troops and their allies invaded Iraq. He fought through blocked bridges, explosions and troops to report to the museum in the chaotic days afterward, finding he could not persuade U.S. troops to protect it because no order had been issued to do so.