Remember the looting of the Iraq Museum

This video is about the looting of the Iraq museum and other Iraqi antiquities since George W. Bush invaded in 2003. In the video, Donny George, ex director of the museum, now one of the millions of refugees from Bush’s ‘new’ Iraq, is interviewed.

From Kris’s Archaeology Blog in the USA:

For the fifth year running, SAFE (Saving Antiquities for Everyone) is holding a candlelight vigil, calling for a global moment to remember the looting of the Iraq Museum in April 2003.


A US company has handed over thousands of ancient items, smuggled out of Iraq, that it bought for a Bible museum: here.

4 thoughts on “Remember the looting of the Iraq Museum

  1. The looting of Iraq’s past

    By Tara Burghart 2008-4-20

    ABOUT all one can tell from a simple viewing is that the doll-sized, white stone statuette depicts a bald man with wide black eyes, wearing a long, pleated skirt, his hands clasped in greeting.

    But when University of Chicago archaeologists examine the notebook detailing the figure’s 1933 excavation in Iraq, they learn it was one of three similar statues found near an ancient temple’s altar: The clasped hands are actually a gesture of prayer.

    Also in the log book are numbers directing the archaeologists to seven photos of the 4,500-year-old figure and its excavation, including one of a local Iraqi kneeling by the pit soon after the statuette was located.

    That’s the kind of priceless context being lost as looters target a number of archaeological sites in Iraq in the chaos that has resulted from the Iraq War, said Geoff Emberling, director of the university’s Oriental Institute Museum.

    A new show at the museum, “Catastrophe! The Destruction and Looting of Iraq’s Past,” opened on Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad during the United States-led invasion.

    The exhibition uses examples from the institute’s own collection – including the statuette and notebook – to demonstrate the kinds of treasures and information being lost. (The museum had hoped to include several stolen objects seized by US Customs, but could not get permission.)

    It also features aerial photos of the damaged, pockmarked landscape at archaeological sites, and presents a primer on how the Oriental Institute believes the international trade in antiquities promotes such looting. Finally, visitors will leave with a packet of information about what they can do to help, including mailing letters to senators urging them to ratify an international treaty that would “clarify the US military’s obligations regarding cultural heritage preservation.”

    “This is a very different kind of thing for us. Normally, we’re not advocates for public policy, we’re scholars,” Emberling said. “We’re very excited about the possibility that this will do some good in the world, in a different kind of way than archaeology usually does.”

    The Oriental Institute is one of the most important centers for the study of the ancient Near East in the US, and most of the 28,000 objects in its Mesopotamian collection were excavated in the first half of the 20th century, when University of Chicago archeologists conducted large-scale expeditions in Iraq.

    Under a system known as “partage,” Iraqi officials chose what objects they wanted to keep for their national museum. The foreign archeologists were allowed to take home the rest, in exchange for conducting the excavations.

    Even after that system ended more than 30 years ago, the university continued to do work in Iraq, the present-day site of Mesopotamia, which introduced many important innovations to the world, including, some historians say, the wheel.

    In connection with the exhibit, the Oriental Institute held a symposium yesterday called “Looting the Cradle of Civilization: The Loss of History in Iraq.”

    Speakers included Donny George, the former director of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. A partial renovation of the museum is expected to be completed in a few months, but it will not reopen, according to Bahaa Mayah, adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Mayah said the museum lacked a security system, a reliable supply of electricity or a fire system.

    An estimated 15,000 objects were stolen from the museum. The exhibit estimates about 6,000 are back in the museum’s possession or have been recovered.

    US Marine Reserve Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, the investigator who led the probe into the looting, said many thefts at the museum were done by museum insiders and senior government officials.

    Yet Iraq had a “sterling record” from the 1930s to 1990, the eve of the Gulf War, of maintaining its antiquities, restoring archaeological sites and preventing smuggling, said McGuire Gibson, a professor in the Oriental Institute and the exhibit’s curator.

    Gibson, an archaeologist who specializes in Mesopotamia, said the last time he was able to conduct a dig in Iraq was 1990.

    He made a brief visit there in May, 2003, as part of a National Geographic delegation, and was horrified to see hundreds of men at some sites, digging randomly for commercially desirable items such as cuneiform tablets or cylinder seals – tiny, circular stones rolled over wet clay or mud to seal doorways or containers, or to mark tablets.

    He said that the diggers are often local men just trying to support their families. They might be paid US$5 or US$10 for an item that sells for hundreds of times more on the black market.

    Art dealers benefit the most, according to the exhibit, although it also maintains profits from selling looted artifacts are used to buy weapons.

    Gibson said Americans should care about the loss of Iraq’s cultural heritage.

    “We’re the ones who took over this country. We’re the ones who occupied it, and under our occupation, this great thievery has happened,” Gibson said. “We owe a debt to human history and culture.”


  2. Pingback: Ancient Egyptian statue vandalism by British nobleman, politicians | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Italian, Ukrainian criminals swap weapons for ISIS’ stolen art | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Austerity destroys Brazilian national museum | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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