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Babbler # 1064

posted 10 June 2003 05:39 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Most valuable pieces had already been placed in vaults.

The museum was indeed heavily looted, but its Iraqi directors confirmed today that the losses at the institute did not number 170,000 artifacts as originally reported in news accounts.

Actually, about 33 priceless vases, statues and jewels were missing.

"I said there were 170,000 pieces in the entire museum collection," said Donny George as he stood with beads of sweat glistening on his forehead in his barren office at the museum. "Not 170,000 pieces stolen."

George, the director general of research and study of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and the source for the original number, said the theft of 170,000 pieces would have been almost impossible: "No, no, no. That would be every single object we have!"

On Saturday, a team of U.S. investigators from the Customs Service and State Department released a summary of a preliminary report that concluded that 3,000 pieces were missing. And more importantly, of the 8,000 or so exhibit-quality, world-class pieces of jewelry, statues and cuneiform clay tablets, only 47 were unaccounted for.

Today, Iraqi officials at the museum confirmed the U.S. numbers, with a slight adjustment.


The looted items were carted away by mobs who hacked gold pieces from 3,000-year-old Assyrian urns and professional art thieves with glass cutters who knew exactly which Sumerian vases they were looking for.

Of the rarest pieces, George said, "I do not hold out much hope that they will be recovered anytime soon."

Even if the initial numbers were overblown, the museum still suffered serious losses.

Among the missing items is the 5,000-year-old Warka Vase, a three-foot alabaster relief sculpture depicting scenes of everyday life at the dawn of civilization. The vase had been bolted to a podium, Russell said, but looters breached the glass case and ripped the vase from its base.

Also missing is the Warka Face, which, at 3,000 years old, is perhaps the oldest naturalistic sculpture of a woman's face.

From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 490

posted 10 June 2003 06:07 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
On the one hand... phew. (Insert relieved emoticon here)

On the other hand, I'm still because the US armed forces could easily have prevented professional looters from stealing artifacts from museums by the simple expedient of parking two tanks at the museum complete with glaring spotlights and rooftop snipers, and big signs in English and Arabic saying "STATE YOUR INTENTIONS WHEN YOU APPROACH. LOOTERS WILL BE ARRESTED."

50 years from now, I betcha there'll be some "human interest" story on a Robber Baron - sorry, rich person, and the panning shot of all his or her stuff will accidentally pick up one of those Iraqi artifacts. Will anybody yell bloody murder at the discovery of the theft?

From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 1471

posted 10 June 2003 06:09 PM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, 33 missing pieces is still a disaster -- but it ain't 170,000, that's for sure.

More on this in The Guardian:

Was the museum's director of research responsible?

On Sunday night, in a remarkable programme on BBC2, the architectural historian Dan Cruikshank both sought and found. Cruikshank had been to the museum in Baghdad, had inspected the collection, the storerooms, the outbuildings, and had interviewed people who had been present around the time of the looting, including George and some US troops. And Cruikshank was present when, for the first time, US personnel along with Iraqi museum staff broke into the storerooms.

One, which had clearly been used as a sniper point by Ba'ath forces, had also been looted of its best items, although they had been stacked in a far corner. The room had been opened with a key. Another storeroom looked as though the looters had just departed with broken artefacts all over the floor. But this, Cruikshank learned, was the way it had been left by the museum staff. No wonder, he told the viewers - the staff hadn't wanted anyone inside this room. Overall, he concluded, most of the serious looting "was an inside job".

Cruikshank also tackled George directly on events leading up to the looting. The Americans had said that the museum was a substantial point of Iraqi resistance, and this explained their reticence in occupying it. Not true, said George, a few militia-men had fired from the grounds and that was all. This, as Cruikshank heavily implied, was a lie. Not only were there firing positions in the grounds, but at the back of the museum there was a room that seemed to have been used as a military command post. And it was hardly credible that senior staff at the museum would not have known that. Cruikshank's closing thought was to wonder whether the museum's senior staff - all Ba'ath party appointees - could safely be left in post.

From: Under the Rubble | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 1471

posted 11 July 2003 03:22 PM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Artnews just published the best and most detailed article I've seen to date on the looting:

Inside Iraq’s National Museum: A reporter on the scene in Baghdad describes how and why the looting happened, By Roger Atwood

From: Under the Rubble | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged

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