8,000 Antiquities Still Missing from Iraq
The Independent summarizes a paper given by John Curtis of the British Museum at an art crime conference in London, concerning Iraq’s ancient heritage looted while Americans stood by and watched:
“[H]alf of the 40 iconic items from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad still had not been retrieved. And of at least 15,000 items looted from its storerooms, about 8,000 have yet to be traced.”
Of the recovered items, 4,000 were recovered inside Iraq, about 1,000 in the US, 500 in France, and 200 in Jordan.
Even worse, lots of antiquities have been looted directly from excavation sites, ruining them for history. Once a piece is separated from its context and soil layer, its significance is often impossible to guess. Thousands of years of Iraqi history are being destroyed.
The political Right in the United States has all along attempted to play down the significance of the cultural looting. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked at one point, “How many antiquities could they have?”, exemplifying the pure Philistinism of the Bush administration. Flacks like Charles Krauthammer have even called the looting a “myth” and then used the supposed “myth” as a basis to attack critics of the administration’s handling of Iraq!
As the Iraqi National Museum was being looted, US troops were busy guarding the Petroleum Ministry.
The Lady of Uruk (3100 B.C.) Recovered September 2003 north of Baghdad.