Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stolen Mesopotamian Antiquities Starting to Resurface

I've reported a couple of times on the mass looting of Mesopotamian artifacts that took place after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It seems that thanks to government rewards, some of the tens of thousands of missing pieces are trickling back to their home in the National Museum of Iraq.

Piece by priceless piece, artefact by ancient artefact, Iraq is slowly recovering its Mesopotamian treasures looted by bandits, militiamen and soldiers after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

An Iraqi government official says lured by offers of rewards, Iraqis are increasingly handing in an assortment of cups, vases, statuettes, daggers, plates and coins dating back to the very cradle of civilisation.

"We had 594 pieces returned this week alone," Abdul Zahra al-Talaqani, media director in the ministry of culture, tourism and antiquities, said in his office in Baghdad's tightly-protected Green Zone.
So far the museum has recovered about 4000 of its 15,000 missing items, but there are another 17,000 items recorded missing from archaeological sites, and an untold number of unrecorded items that have been dug up from the countryside.

The director of the museum, Donny George, had to leave the country because of death threats, and before he left he had the museum sealed with bricks and concrete. Now the acting director, Amira Emiran, has decided that it's time to re-open the museum, albeit in a limited way. Only two of the 18 galleries will be opened, and they will contain only items that are too heavy to be stolen. It's hard for people to value their heritage if they are never exposed to it, so this is probably a good move if they can keep the museum secure.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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