Rumsfeld Denies U.S. Blame for Iraq Museum Plunder
Tue April 15, 2003 04:19 PM ET By Charles Aldinger
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday rejected charges that the U.S. military was to blame for the looting by Iraqis of priceless treasures from the antiquities museum in Baghdad. Rumsfeld expressed sympathy over the plunder of the Iraqi National Museum last week, when U.S. troops stood by as looters walked off with antiquities or smashed what they could not steal. But he denied at a Pentagon briefing that the war plan for Iraq had not adequately prepared for such a threat. "To try to lay off the fact of that unfortunate activity on a defect in a war plan it strikes me as a stretch," he said in response to questions from reporters. "Looting is an unfortunate thing. Human beings are not perfect," Rumsfeld said. "No one likes it. No one allows it." But he added: "To the extent it happens in a war zone, it's difficult to stop." Rumsfeld noted that the United States had offered rewards for return of the artifacts and for information on their whereabouts, and he suggested museum officials had hidden some treasures ahead of the war for safety.
"I would suspect that over time we will find that a number of the things were, in fact, hidden prior to the conflict," he said. "That's what most people who run museums do prior to a conflict which was obviously well-publicized well in advance." The museum housed key artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia, one of the earliest civilizations. It was ransacked and its contents taken or destroyed in looting that swept the Iraqi capital after the collapse of President Saddam Hussein's rule last week.
MAY NEVER BE RECOVERED
Antiquities experts, dismayed that U.S. officials failed to heed their warnings to protect Baghdad's artifacts during the war, said on Monday they were concerned that the priceless treasures may never be recovered. U.S. archeological organizations and the U.N.'s cultural agency UNESCO said they had provided U.S. officials with information about Iraq's cultural heritage and archeological sites months before the war began. "Not to my knowledge. It may very well have been," Rumsfeld said when asked it he had received such advance warnings. "But certainly the targeting people were well aware of where it was and they certainly avoided targeting it. Whatever damage that was done was done from the ground." Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, quickly added that Rumsfeld did receive advance warnings about archeological sites around Baghdad and that these warnings were passed on to the military's Central Command with responsibility for the war. "I think it was the American Archeological Association -- I believe that was the title -- wrote the secretary with some concerns," Myers said. "We tried to avoid hitting those sites ... to my knowledge we didn't hit any of them."
Myers also rejected criticism of the U.S. war plan, which has seen American-led forces topple Saddam's rule in a four-week war. He said the ground war was launched quickly and with fewer forces than expected by many in order to gain surprise and save both military and civilian lives. "I think as much as anything else it was a matter of priorities," he said.
U.N. experts to assess damage to Iraqi relics
PARIS (AP) — UNESCO will send a team of experts to Iraq to assess the damage that looting has caused to the country's vast holdings of priceless antiquities. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said the team would study the conditions of museums and historical sites, identify ways of restoring them and find potential donors. "The recent experience of UNESCO ... shows that culture can play a key role in the consolidation of the peace process," Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said in a statement Tuesday. UNESCO said the team would travel "when conditions permit." About 30 experts were to meet Thursday for an initial assessment at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last week, looters stole and smashed priceless archaeological treasures from Iraq's National Museum. The museum in the northern city of Mosul also was pillaged, and Baghdad's Islamic Library, which holds one of the oldest surviving copies of the Quran, was set afire on Monday. Ancient Mesopotamia was the cradle of urban civilization, and Iraq's museums held priceless, millennia-old Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections. Matsuura urged American and British forces occupying Iraq to take immediate measures to guard Iraq's many archaeological sites and cultural institutions. He also called on several groups — countries bordering Iraq, customs officials, police and art dealers — to do all they could to block the trading of stolen antiquities. At a U.S. Central Command briefing Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks was asked why American forces had failed to guard the museum.
Brooks said U.S. troops were heavily occupied by combat when they entered Baghdad. "I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the people of Iraq," he said. Donny George, the director of antiquities at Iraq's National Museum, told CNN on Tuesday that U.S. laxity allowed looters to come back again and again. He said he went to the Marine headquarters in Baghdad three days ago and waited for hours to talk with a colonel them about security issues. "That day he promised that he will send armored cars to protect what's left from the museum," George said. "Three days ago till now, nobody came." CNN reported glass cutters were found at the museum, indicating that professionals were involved in the looting. The British Museum, among those institutions sending in art experts, called Tuesday upon the United Nations to ban the sale of antiquities looted from Iraq. "It is clear that a catastrophe has befallen the cultural heritage of Iraq," said British Museum director Neil MacGregor. "We hope that the British government and the international community can move quickly to take the steps necessary to avoid further damage."
The British Museum, which holds the greatest collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq, has been criticized for failing to return antiquities taken from their homelands during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Shock at Marilyn jewellery theft
15th April 2003
Organisers of a Marilyn Monroe exhibition today expressed their shock at the theft of valuable jewellery once belonging to the Hollywood star. A diamond-encrusted gold ring with an "M" motif and two gold bangles, together valued at around £40,000, were stolen from County Hall Gallery in central London yesterday when it was packed with around 150 visitors. A security guard apprehended one man near the scene at the South Bank but another was still at large.
'Biggest ever' Marilyn exhibition
Marilyn Monroe - Life Of A Legend opened at the County Hall Gallery on April 9. Billed as "the biggest ever exhibition devoted to the life of the ultimate screen icon", more than 250 items are on show.
Among them was the stolen jewellery - which Marilyn had given to her childhood friend Bebe Goddard. Antonia Spanos, head of exhibitions, said: "Marilyn wore these items of jewellery when she was going out. "But she had so much stuff, she would give things away to people who were like her surrogate family. "She gave these items to Bebe, who was like her foster sister." She said: "Some of the artworks in the show were a lot more valuable. But I guess the thieves came in and saw something sparkly and beautiful and grabbed it. "They were obviously not art lovers because they didn't know what to head for."
The jewellery was on loan from auction house Cooper Owen, and was due to go under the hammer in September. Ms Spanos said: "These were very rare items which had a lot of personal significance to Marilyn. "They were also incredibly interesting for the public, who really want to know what Marilyn wore and what she looked like. "There is a sense of shock and disbelief at what has happened. "Marilyn wasn't just a beautiful actress, she created her own legend." Grab and run
Around 150 visitors were at the exhibition when the thieves entered at around 3.20pm yesterday. Ms Spanos said: "They wandered in quite aggressively without buying tickets so our staff were alerted. "It appears that they pushed one of the cabinets, grabbed what they could and ran. "Two members of security staff ran after them. They split up and so did our security guards." One man was eventually apprehended by a member of staff. "Security guards flagged down police who were in the area. They arrested one of the men who had been caught by our head of security. "Nobody was hurt and all the security procedures we had in place were effective. "We are open to the public today and still have a beautiful show," she said. A Scotland Yard spokesman said a man arrested remained in custody. He added: "Police are seeking a male suspect who is thought to have taken valuable items of jewellery once owned by Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe. "There is no suspect description at this stage."
Dresses and mementoes
Among the items on show are previously unseen photographs, mementoes from the Hollywood star's childhood and designer dresses. Highlights include a bed which the star slept in, and the dress and jewellery worn on her first date with her future husband, baseball star Joe DiMaggio. Works by Andy Warhol, Peter Blake and Henri Cartier- Bresson, inspired by the Some Like It Hot star, are also on display. The exhibition, designed as a tribute to Marilyn's "lasting popularity", is set to run until September 14 in the former home of the Greater London Council. Monroe died in 1962 aged 36 from a drugs overdose at the peak of her career.
Professor: Looted art ‘treasures for us all’
James Savage email@example.com
April 15, 2003
LAFAYETTE — Art has always been a casualty of war.
Early Romans plundered statues from Greek cities. French emperor Napoleon filled the Louvre in Paris with treasures from Moscow, Egypt and throughout Europe. Adolf Hitler began a catalogue of every piece of German art not in his country’s possession and was determined to bring them back to Berlin. But as Iraqis demonstrated last week, conquering armies aren’t always the culprits when it comes to pilfering art. As U.S. forces secured Baghdad, a mob stormed the Iraq National Museum and either walked off with or destroyed some of the oldest pieces of art in the world. The priceless treasures of Baghdad — in the cradle of civilization — didn’t belong just to the Iraqis, said two UL Lafayette professors Monday. “Where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet has been the center of civilization for so many centuries,” said art professor Lynda Frese. “Those works represent our history on the planet, and they represent our identity of who we are. It is so tragic.” “People don’t realize that Baghdad is the birthplace of human civilization,” said Jordan Kellman, an associate professor of history. “It is not just somebody else’s territory — it is everybody’s territory.” Among the museum’s holdings were ancient gold bowls and drinking cups, ritual masks, headdresses, statues and stone tablets dating from 2600 B.C. — treasures of Mesopotamia and Babylon either destroyed or stolen.
“Whether they are illegally taken by the conqueror or illegally taken by traders of ancient artifacts or whether they are just trashed by local people ... what is the difference?” Kellman asked. “They are gone.” Frese cited a Washington Post article that said Pentagon officials had been forewarned that looting would take place weeks before the Iraqi invasion began. “I think it is more tragic that it possibly could have been prevented, especially since the Pentagon had a fair warning that it was probably going to happen,” Frese said. The artwork’s historic value far outweighs any dollar amount one could ascribe to the pieces, she said. “A lot of those works are one of a kind, and it is almost impossible to ascertain what their value is because there is nothing like them,” Frese said. “They are not only the treasures of the Iraqi people, they are treasures for all of us. That is our history of humans on the planet.”
No stone unturned in hunt for looted treasures
By Dalya Alberge and Alan Hamilton
The British Museum will help in the global search for priceless artefacts plundered in the chaos of war THE British Museum, accused in the past of being one of the world’s leading looters of imperial treasures, is to come to the aid of a sister institution devastated by war. Downing Street has asked a leading academic from Britain’s national archaeological collection in Bloomsbury to draw up a list of antiquities that may have been looted from the Baghdad museum so that details can be distributed to soldiers patrolling the borders of Iraq.
Iraq’s priceless national collection traced the origins of modern civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia — the birthplace of writing, cities, codified law, mathematics, medicine and astronomy. Its virtual destruction in little more than a day of lawlessness is seen as a disaster comparable to the 5th-century destruction of the library at Alexandria, or an earlier sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. The pillage of the collection is considered to be not just Iraq’s loss but the world’s, and has distressed Western archaeologists and historians as much as those in Iraq. One — Professor John Russell, of the Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston — broke down in tears yesterday as he described the treasures lost. There are hopes, however, that at least some of the collection may be recovered if the looters can be intercepted before they leave Iraq. The United States will take a “leading role” in protecting Iraqi antiquities and will help to repair damage to artefacts and the National Museum of Iraq, which was looted last week, Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said. “The United States will be working with a number of individuals and organisations not only to secure the facility, but to recover that which has been taken and also to participate in restoring that which has been broken. “The United States understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general, but this museum in particular.”
Ndeye Fall, the Unesco director in Amman, Jordan, said: “From what the museum officials said, there are about 170,000 items that have been looted or destroyed. That has to be assessed. As soon as Unesco is in a position to get inside Iraq, we are going to have an assessment team do so.” Last Friday a mob looted the National Museum in Baghdad, the largest in Iraq, amid a breakdown in civil authority that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime two days earlier. Damage was also reported in other museums. John Curtis, the British Museum’s Keeper of the Department of the Ancient Near East, was asked yesterday to provide information about treasures from the cradle of ancient civilisation, the site of the fabled cities of Ur, Babylon and Nineveh. Dr Curtis, who has directed excavations at eight different sites in Iraq on behalf of the British Museum, noted that humanitarian concerns are uppermost at the moment, but that there are also extreme worries about the threat to Iraq’s important archaeological heritage. Rumours were circulating yesterday that some of the treasures had already been seen in Paris, just as archaeologists and historians had warned governments before the war. An extensive network of smugglers has long been operating in Iraq, a legacy of the first Gulf War.
Eleanor Robson, a noted scholar who has just staged an exhibition of antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, criticised the Government for its delay in responding to the problem. She said that The British School of Archaeologists in Iraq had written to them repeatedly before the war voicing concern: “They didn’t respond, not even a ‘thank you for your concern, we’ll file it in the bin’. “The military has been good at not bombing sites of cultural importance, but they have completely failed to follow through. “The military man in charge of cultural heritage hasn’t reached Baghdad yet. He was put on a convoy yesterday and is expected to reach Baghdad tomorrow. I can’t believe it. It’s like being saved from being run over by a car only to be run over by a double-decker bus.” Reports suggest that less than 30 per cent of Baghdad’s collection of a quarter of a million objects remains untouched. One estimate is as low as 10 per cent. In the last Gulf War, Dr Robson’s colleagues stood at the museum’s entrance with a gun to keep out looters, while treasures were hurriedly emptied at the back. Artefacts were smuggled out, given false provenances and subsequently appeared on the market. The White House took similar steps to Downing Street yesterday, asking John Russell, an eminent American academic, to prepare a list of “what to look out for” — the most likely categories of objects written in layman’s terms for a 19-year-old soldier.
“It will be e-mailed to Central Command and distributed to everyone who might be near a border,” he said. Television coverage of the looted museum made it difficult to recognise individual pieces, he said. “I saw a vaguely familiar statue broken on the floor, but it’s hard to recognise things because the museum is so trashed. It’s different seeing these antiquities upright and intact.” Professor Russell said: “My voice hasn’t been steady since Friday.” The casualties may include a stone head of a woman from Warka (Ancient Uruk), made in around 3000BC. Professor Russell said: “The Warka head is a marble sculpture of a woman which is so sensitively and beautifully carved that I use it to illustrate to my students how far behind the Greeks were when they discovered sculpture. They were 3,000 years behind. “The Iraqi guards said the Warka head was gone. It was one of the most famous pieces in the museum, although it’s unfair to single out any one piece. It’s like asking what’s the best piece in the British Museum.” Another irreplaceable treasure is a small standing sculpture of a bird’s head, made in around 8000BC. Professor Russell said: “It’s remarkably sensitive, somewhat humourous. It’s stunningly beautiful. It was found in the hand of a skeleton in a collapsed burnt building. It was something someone went in to save. They were killed trying to save it.” Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, said:
“Although we still await precise information, it is clear that a catastrophe has befallen the cultural heritage of Iraq.” He wants a declaration by Unesco and governments that all looted antiquities could not legally be acquired and would be returned to Iraq: “A declaration along similar lines was made by the Allied Powers in the Second World War about works of art sold in Nazi- occupied Europe. We hope that the British Government and the international community can move quickly to take the steps necessary to avoid further damage and to prepare the way for recovering objects looted, and for conserving those that can still be restored.” The Ashmolean’s display includes a silver coin struck in 9th-century Baghdad, which reads: “In the name of God, this dirham was struck in the city of peace.”
Objects beyond price find black market buyers
MANY of the thousands of items feared looted from Iraq’s museums are considered priceless (David Brown writes). They would fetch hundreds of millions of pounds, if not billions, if sold to museums or private collectors. Although the treasures of the world’s first-known civilisations are now found at leading museums around the world, the most important and extensive collections remained in Iraq. During the first Gulf War about 4,000 items went missing from local museums, and looters have been picking away brickwork and tiles at unguarded ancient sites for decades. Until last week the major museums had remained untouched. Most of the items have been catalogued and so could not be sold legitimately. Auction houses will be closely inspecting the proof of ownership of any items from the region. There is, however, a thriving black market for antiquities among about 100 private collectors. Large objects are at risk of being deliberately damaged in an attempt to make them unrecognisable so that they are more difficult to trace. It will be easier to place smaller and more common items such as coins, jewellery, cylinder seals, pottery figurines and tablets. Among the items feared taken by the looters are some of Iraq’s most valuable:
Dozens of marble figurines, between 1in and 6in high, from Tell es- Sawwaan. 6000BC
Basalt lion hunt stele, from Warka. 3000BC
Alabaster cult vase, decorated with a temple procession, from Warka. 36in high. 3000BC.
Stone statue of Dudu, the Prime Minister to the royal court of Lagash. 2600BC-2300BC
Pair of standing worshippers, male and female, from Tell Asmar. 30in high. 2500BC
Items from the royal tomb of Ur, including a bull-headed harp, and gold items including a helmet of a king, a dagger and sheath, jewellery and goblets. 2500BC
Copper head of a ruler, from Nineveh, slightly less than life size. 2300BC
Clay model of a chariot created in southern Mesopotamia. 1900BC- 1600BC
Thousands of ivory sculptures used as inlays for wooden furniture, the most famous known as “Mona Lisa of Nimrud”.
Copper sculpture of a standing Hercules, from Hatra. 200AD.
UNESCO, British Museum move to salvage Iraqi treasure trove
By Joseph Coleman, Associated Press, 4/15/2003 10:47
PARIS (AP) Rallying to salvage one of the world's most treasured troves of antiquities, UNESCO and the British Museum announced Tuesday they would send experts to Iraq to restore museums and artifacts ransacked after the U.S.-led invasion.
The looting in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in recent days has dealt a harsh blow to the Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections that chronicled some 7,000 years of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia. Much anger at the destruction has been directed at U.S. troops who stood by and watched it happen. On Tuesday, U.S. officials acknowledged they were surprised by the rampage and said troops were too occupied by combat to intervene when they first arrived in Baghdad. ''I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the people of Iraq,'' said U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at a U.S. Central Command briefing Tuesday in Qatar. The Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said its team would study the conditions of museums and historical sites, identify ways of restoring them and find potential donors. UNESCO said the team would travel ''when conditions permit.'' About 30 experts were to meet Thursday for an initial assessment at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. ''The recent experience of UNESCO ... shows that culture can play a key role in the consolidation of the peace process,'' Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said in a statement. In London, the British Museum said it would also send a team, and it called on the United Nations to ban the sale of antiquities looted from Iraq.
''Although we still await precise information, it is clear that a catastrophe has befallen the cultural heritage of Iraq,'' said British Museum director Neil MacGregor. After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last week, Iraqi looters stole and smashed priceless archaeological treasures from Iraq's National Museum. The museum holds items of incalculable cultural value, perhaps the most famous being the tablets with Hammurabi's Code one of mankind's earliest codes of law. It could not be immediately determined whether the tablets were at the museum when the war broke out. Thieves smashed or pried open row upon row of glass cases and pilfered or just destroyed their contents. Among the missing treasures: The four millennia-old copper head of an Akkadian king, golden bowls and colossal statues, ancient manuscripts and bejeweled lyres. The museum in the northern city of Mosul also was pillaged, and Baghdad's National Library with one of the oldest surviving copies of the Quran was set afire Monday. On Tuesday, the library was a smoldering three- story shell, its floor covered with the ashes of books. Its collection included some irreplaceable, centuries-old Arabic manuscripts. Nearby, the library of the Religious Affairs Ministry, home to invaluable religious texts, also was looted and gutted by fire.
Donny George, director of antiquities at Iraq's National Museum, told CNN that U.S. laxity allowed looters to come back repeatedly. He said he went to the Marine headquarters in Baghdad three days ago and waited for hours to talk with a colonel about security issues. ''That day he promised that he will send armored cars to protect what's left from the museum,'' George said. ''Three days ago till now, nobody came.'' CNN reported glass cutters were found at the museum, indicating professionals were involved in the looting.
UNESCO's Matsuura urged American and British forces to take immediate measures to guard Iraq's archaeological sites and cultural institutions. He also called on several groups countries bordering Iraq, customs officials, police and art dealers to do all they could to block the trading of stolen antiquities. The British Museum, which holds the greatest collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq, has been criticized for failing to return antiquities taken from their homelands in the 18th and 19th centuries.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
Subject: New Development Gateway initiative- Iraq: Relief and Recovery
Date sent: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 14:52:09 -0400
In view of current events in the Middle East, the Development Gateway has established a new topic on Iraq: Relief and Recovery. The Page Focus for this states: "The war in Iraq poses the risk of a significant economic shock to the country and the surrounding region. The country will face numerous development challenges in areas such as humanitarian aid, post-conflict reconstruction and governance.... Our aim is to make knowledge about Iraq's development more readily available to those who need it. We look forward to your content contributions and your comments." Iraqi culture and the cultural heritage of the country during the conflict and its aftermath will form part of this work, so Culture and Development members may wish to join the new Gateway topic and follow - or better still - work with other Development Gateway users in building a robust knowledge repository and exchanging ideas and experience. The easiest way to join is to log into Culture and Development (or any other Gateway page), click on your own name at the top left hand side of the home page, and this will bring up your personal profile under the heading "My Gateway", and you can then update this by adding Iraq: Releif and Recovery to your Topic Newsletters and Alerts list. Best wishes Patrick Boylan (Culture and Development Guide, Development Gateway)
Van: Nensi Brailo [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Onderwerp: [ARLIS-L] Destruction of libraries panel proposal for NYC conference
Dear ARLIS/NA members,
At Baltimore conference I proposed that we hold a panel on destruction and/or reconstruction of libraries/cultural heritage during the times of war and terrorist attacks. I wanted to propose a session to be sponsored by the International Relations Committee, but the IRC has two session proposals already in the works and suggested that I organize the session on my own as committee sponsorship is no longer a requirement. If you would like to participate in this panel or have any suggestions or ideas please contact me at your earliest convenience. All proposals for the 2004 conference in New York are due by May 5th.
-Is there anyone who would like to talk about the New York collections affected by the 9/11?
-Do you have any further ideas about what countries we could include in a such a panel discussion (e.g., give more specific ideas about the destruction and/or conservation efforts). I studied the destruction of libraries and cultural heritage in Croatia during the recent war and could give a talk on Croatia. Is anyone else interested in covering any other country or countries?
-Do you know anyone who would make a great panelist, and is a dynamic, energetic speaker who has a lot to say on this subject?
-Are you willing to be a panelist yourself? I am suggesting that this proposal would be listed under the category of: E. Contemporary Issues: This category is concerned with recent and developing issues of interest to art librarians, visual resources curators, and their clientele.
The session format could be any of the following:
#2 Plenary. Open Session; 120 minutes: presentations with a comment and discussion period on a topic of interest to the entire ARLIS/NA membership. or
#3 Panel Discussion. Open Session; 90-minutes: a panel of 3-4 individuals and 1 moderator. Panelists will discuss a variety of ideas, perspectives, or approaches about the given topic. A moderated comment and discussion period will follow the discussion.
Thank you in advance for any input and your consideration to participate in this panel. Sincerely,
Nensi Brailo Reference/Electronic Services Librarian Meyer Library, California College of Arts and Crafts 5212 Broadway
Oakland CA 94618 phone: (510)594-3659 e-mail: email@example.com
Russian treasure hunters destroy 'Greek outpost'
Nick Paton Walsh in Kazachi Brod Tuesday April 15, 2003 The Guardian
The Russian security services are trying to prevent illegal archaeologists, known as "black diggers", from destroying the remains of what may have been a remote outpost of classical Greek civilisation. Last week officials of the Hermitage Gallery in St Petersburg offered to care for 26 rare Greek pieces which were found five years ago near the village of Kazachi Brod in the Caucasus, a few miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Sochi's Art Museum cannot afford the £3,000 needed to restore them. They are currently in shoeboxes in the museum basement. According to the Hermitage the pieces date from 500BC to 300BC and originate from the Greek region of Adriatica. Some experts suggest that they were brought to Russia by Black Sea pirates. Others believe they are evidence of a legendary far-eastern colony of ancient Greece, which locals refer to as the "Solonki". The scramble for relics began five years ago when Andrei Chamkin, 30, found the 26 pieces - Greek vases, swords, brooches, helmets and bracelets - and took them back to his brother's farmhouse. Piotr Khrisanov, the director of the Sochi Art Museum, said: "Andrei Chamkin studied the local legends and knew that in 1917 a group of local monks hid the treasures of an old monastery on a mountain behind the river Mzimta." He found two Sarmat swords in perfect condition, and two silver discs, known as the Filia and Salmara, with delicate animal engravings. But Chamkin's attempt to sell them attracted the attention of the Sochi branch of the Russian security service, the FSB. When the security agents caught up with him they struck a deal. He showed them where he had found the pieces and received an award, but he died shortly afterwards, in strange circumstances, according to his brother. "He got drunk and shot himself," said Pavel Champkin, but he was not a "drinker".
Vladimir Simionov, an archaeologist at the Institute of Material History in St Petersburg, who visited the site near Kazachi Brod, was appalled by the damage caused by the "black diggers". "The local villages are really poor and are hoping to find something that would improve their life," he said. "The black diggers had ploughed through everything down to the rock." Mr Chamkin said: "People are afraid to take the antiques abroad, so they look for private collectors. The relics are everywhere, and locals are still finding them. But they keep it to themselves."
U.S.: Will Restore Looted Iraq Artifacts
By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
April 15, 2003 — Criticized for not preventing the pillage of Iraqi antiquities, the United States vowed Monday to take a "leading role" in protecting artifacts and repair damage to the National Museum of Iraq which was looted last week. In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington was working with the United Nations, the European Union and Interpol to prevent stolen objects from leaving Iraq and warned thieves that they would face prosecution. "This kind of looting causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and to the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into our past," Powell said in a statement. Separately, the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Maxwell Anderson, urged museums and collectors to spurn any offer to acquire Iraqi artifacts. Anderson "called on museums and collectors around the world not to acquire antiquities stolen from the Baghdad Museum, and urged that information leading to the recovery of artifacts be passed on to appropriate authorities," the AAMD said in a statement. Earlier, Powell told reporters that the United States was deeply concerned by the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, which he called "one of the great museums in the world."
Powell said Washington would work with others "not only secure the facility, but to recover that which has been taken and also to participate in restoring that which has been broken." Deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said U.S. officials had been in contact with the international police agency Interpol to locate and return stolen objects before they turned up in the thriving global black market for such items. Powell said he had spoken Monday with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, about possible ways to protect Iraq's cultural heritage. And, he said U.S. officials had been in touch with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to explore steps that could be taken.
UNESCO's chief, Koichiro Matsuura, on Saturday called on U.S. and British authorities to immediately protect Iraq's cultural heritage by monitoring and guarding archeological sites and cultural institutions. Iraq's national museum fell victim to looters on Friday in the lawless atmosphere that engulfed Baghdad after the arrival there of U.S. troops on Wednesday.
Pottery artifacts and statues were broken and overturned, while administrative offices were wrecked, according to witnesses. Iraq, among the earliest cradles of civilization and home to the remains of such ancient Mesopotamian cities as Babylon, Ur and Nineveh, has one of the richest archaeological heritages in the world. Shortly after the war began on March 20, a group of 18 prominent archaeologists appealed for the U.S.-led coalition to spare Iraq's priceless antiquities. The extraordinary significance of the monuments, museums and archeological sites of Iraq — ancient Mesopotamia — imposes an obligation on all peoples and governments to protect them," they said in March 21 open letter published in the journal Science. They also called on the international community to take a post-war role in assisting in the protection of antiquities from looting and themselves pledged to help Iraqi Department of Antiquities do its job. Some of the signatories were among a team of scholars to have worked with the Pentagon and the State Department before the war to identify some 4,000 sites that should be protected. Despite these efforts, they expressed deep concern that the fall of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would erode the control of cultural watchdogs in the country and spur looting, particularly at the museums in Baghdad and Mosul.
Editorial: Trashing the past Iraq looting destroys irreplaceable artifacts
Bee Editorial Staff
Last Updated 6:50 a.m. PDT Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Almost immediately after it became apparent that Saddam Hussein's regime had lost control in Baghdad, mobs attacked, looted and burned key ministries and other symbols of the regime. Tragically, they also descended on Iraq's National Museum and its National Library, carrying away or destroying countless artifacts, some dating back 7,000 years.
No one may ever know whether this crime against history could have been prevented. But many Iraqis, including museum officials and archeologists, put much of the blame on America. They say U.S. armed units made only one brief attempt to frighten off looters. It worked, they said, but added that U.S. troops refused to stay and the looters soon returned. How valid the accusation is cannot be known at this point, and there ought to be a thorough investigation. American archeologists warned the Pentagon before the war that some of the world's oldest treasures would be at risk, either from U.S. bombing or the kind of collapse of order that ensued. And Iraqi curators said they had been assured by U.S. officials that their antiquities would be protected as soon as U.S. forces were able to do so. There may be several reasons that did not happen, and blame should be withheld until more is known. There have been sporadic firefights since U.S. forces entered Baghdad last week; one can hardly expect an army to fight a stubborn enemy and, at the same time, begin the complex process of restoring order, providing humanitarian relief and guarding sensitive sites, such as the hospital at which a Marine was shot and killed Saturday while standing guard. Still, one can't help wondering if a few small detachments of soldiers or Marines couldn't have been assigned to guard such sites once they entered Baghdad.
The list of precious artifacts lost is heartbreaking. It includes gold, silver and other precious-metal carvings; stone tablets containing some of the first-ever use of written language; a tablet containing the Code of Hammurabi, believed to be the world's earliest legal code; even the records of the museum's holdings, making it virtually impossible to trace the missing antiquities. There are indications that the looting was conducted by organized gangs. It seems sure that much of what was stolen will find its way via the black market into the hands of wealthy private collectors.
One must hope that U.S. authorities, their Iraqi counterparts and the world's antiquarian community will be diligent in pursuing those responsible for this monumental crime. http://www.sacbee.com/
Powell Warns Against Dealing in Looted Iraqi Antiquities
Says State Department office will take the lead in restoring damaged articles
Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Americans, Iraqis and others not to retain or attempt to buy and sell objects and documents taken from Iraq's national museums. Those items are "the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international law," he said. In a statement released April 14, Powell said the United States would work with INTERPOL and other international organizations in an effort to thwart people from dealing in "stolen property." "Such looting causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into our past," he said. The secretary also announced that Ambassador John Limbert and the State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs will take the lead in helping Iraqis and international experts to restore damaged artifacts and catalogs containing lists of antiquities held in the museums that were looted.
Following is the text of Secretary Powell's Statement regarding Iraq's antiquities and cultural property:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman April 14, 2003
Statement by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
Cooperation for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Antiquities and Cultural Property
The people of the United States value the archeological and cultural heritage of Iraq that documents over 10,000 years of the development of civilization. In recent days, the National Museums in Baghdad and Mosul have been looted, as well as other cultural institutions and archeological sites. Such looting causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into our past. Objects and documents taken from museums and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international law. They are therefore stolen property, whether found in Iraq or other nations. Anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a crime. Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law and under the United States National Stolen Property Act. The Iraqi people, as well as members of the Coalition forces and others, are warned not to handle these artifacts. In particular, Americans are asked not to purchase or otherwise trade in such objects as they belong to the nation of Iraq and are stolen property.
In addition to the well-reported efforts made to protect cultural, religious and historic sites in Iraq, CENTCOM has issued instructions to all troops inside Iraq to protect museums and antiquities throughout Iraq. U.S. radio broadcasts throughout Iraq are encouraging Iraqis to return any items taken and are providing instructions on how to do so. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs will help Iraqis and international experts in their efforts to restore artifacts and the catalogs of antiquities that were damaged by looters. A senior advisor in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador John Limbert, will take the lead in this effort.
We are working through INTERPOL to pursue broader international law enforcement efforts to help locate these items and return them to Iraq before they make it into international crime channels. We have also been in touch with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regarding a constructive role they can play in safeguarding Iraqi antiquities.
Subject: This is Harvard University Professor Riedlmayer's Comments
It is now being determined that most of the pieces were taken before the war started, by high ranking officials. They had the keys to the safes that were opened not broken into. Plus they knew how to determine the reproductions, from the originals. They left the reproductions untouched. This was mostly an inside job, and had nothing to do with our troops not protecting the museum.
G. Howard Ancient Art International, Inc. Authentication - Appraisal - Sales www.EgyptianAntiquities.Com
Curators Appeal for a Ban on Purchase of Iraqi Artifacts
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
The world's museum officials and archaeologists appealed to the American government yesterday to take stronger steps to prevent further pillaging in Baghdad and called for a moratorium on the purchase of Iraqi antiquities on the international market.
Museum leaders in the United States suggested the moratorium as a way of cutting off the looters from potential markets for their contraband. They also recommended an amnesty from prosecution for all Iraqis who turn in ancient artifacts seized last week in attacks on museums in Baghdad and Mosul. These and other proposals to halt looting and retrieve some of the lost antiquities of ancient Mesopotamia will be considered in Paris tomorrow at an emergency meeting of museum and archaeology leaders called by Unesco, the United Nations' cultural arm. A similar meeting, scheduled for London at the end of the month, will review ideas for assisting Iraq in rebuilding its museums and once thriving program of archaeological research. The idea of a moratorium on Iraqi antiquity sales has been circulating among experts for a couple of days. The American Council for Cultural Policy, a New York-based group of museum officials and prominent art collectors, called the attack on the Baghdad museum "an event of catastrophic magnitude for both the people of Iraq and the world as a whole." The council said it would, in concert with other cultural and scholarly groups in the United States, seek "to find ways to shut off the import of objects that may have been taken from Iraq and to close the domestic market in such material." Other governments, the council said, would be encouraged to join such a moratorium. "I feel very strongly that we have to mobilize a reaction and make people aware that it's not going to be easy to get the looted stuff out on the market," said Ashton Hawkins, the council president and a former lawyer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Hawkins also proposed small rewards to encourage the return of artifacts. In addition to offering protection from prosecution, he said, people returning the antiquities should be given perhaps $10 or $20 — enough to be encouraging but not enough to promote more pillage. Other experts seemed to favor the moratorium and amnesty proposals, if they could be made to work, but feared that cash rewards would be ill advised.
Maxwell L. Anderson, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, called on the world's museums and art collectors not to acquire antiquities stolen from the National Museum in Baghdad. He urged cooperation with authorities in helping recover any looted goods that manage to filter out of Iraq. In interviews, several archaeologists sharply criticized American military leaders for failing to heed warnings of potential looting of museums and excavation sites and to provide effective protection against mobs. But they took heart from remarks on Sunday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "The United States understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general but this museum in particular," Mr. Powell said, referring to the ransacked National Museum in Baghdad. Dr. McGuire Gibson, a professor of Mesopotamian archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, said that colleagues had heard from Iraqi antiquities officials who had reported that no military guards were posted yesterday at the National Museum in Baghdad. "The museum has been ransacked, and nothing has been done to make it safe and secure," Dr. Gibson said in a telephone interview from Chicago. "The mob will come back."
War is good, said Bush as the Louvre fell to looters
The fall of France was astonishingly swift. After regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it was only a matter of time before Tony Blair and George W. Bush said that they had “no plans” to attack France. The detested Jacques Chirac had long been a thorn in their sides. He was a past friend of Saddam Hussein, welcomed Arab exiles and had a suspiciously large Muslim population. Above all, he refused point-blank to disband his force de frappe weapons of mass destruction. As Donald Rumsfeld had said back in 2003: “Things mean consequences.” France posed a clear and immediate threat. The coalition acted in pre-emptive self-defence. It was a pity about the Louvre. Coalition forces again fought “battle-lite”. The application of shock- and-awe to Caen and Rouen and the blasting of infrastructure targets round Paris devastated French morale. A re-enactment of Operation Overlord saw the 21st Army Group reform in Hampshire and storm ashore at Normandy’s Omaha and Utah beaches. Veteran units of the 101st Airborne were allowed to seize Pegasus Bridge, again. The Marine Corps had Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks “embedded”.
The A13 to Paris was quickly secured. Predictions of a last stand in the capital’s streets by Gaullist Resistance irregulars on barricades proved groundless. GPS-guided missiles took out regime buildings on the Ile de la Cité, Quai d’Orsay and Les Invalides. The Elysée presidential palace “complex” was soon a 50ft crater. The looting of the Louvre was regretted, but not stopped. Wild scenes greeted the arrival of the Mona Lisa at the Metropolitan, in New York. A shadow government was soon established in a town called Vichy. By general agreement, France had it coming. There was no lack of support in Britain for Mr Blair joining America in this one. The British public had grown used to being “at war”. It stopped schools and hospitals from hogging the news. Long-standing Francophobia had been fuelled in the 1990s by French boycotts of British farm produce and refusal to obey European laws. Fury was increased by French companies buying up British water and rail utilities and sending prices rocketing.
In an episode of the popular series Yes, Prime Minister in the 1980s, Sir Humphrey explained the Defence Ministry’s missile-targeting strategy to his bemused Prime Minister, Jim Hacker. Intercontinental missiles were not aimed at Russia or America, he said. That would be reckless. They had always been aimed, of course, at France. All Britain’s air and naval power was concentrated in the South East. From Henrician forts through Martello towers to 20th-century airfields and gun batteries, everything pointed at France. It was France that could not be trusted. By the time of Baghdad, satire had become reality and a British prime minister needed no persuading. BSE, foot-and-mouth and M Chirac’s denial of a resolution before the Second Gulf War had left Mr Blair enraged. Historians later wondered why he had tolerated so long the mind-numbing Euro-summits and bilaterals with the duplicitous M Chirac. Mr Blair would never again have to shake that man by the hand. When push came to shove and the RAF eagle once more swooped over the Channel, everything felt right. As Geoff Hoon’s cluster bombs fell on Paris, The Sun pictured “Frogs and Chips” and The Mirror replied with “French Fried At Last”. Despite the anarchy of post-conquest Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington’s hawks never lost the initiative after April 2003. Kenneth Adelman, Mr Rumsfeld’s alter ego, told The Washington Post in April that year “not to argue with success”. Iraq had, as he predicted, been a cakewalk. Victory was real. In future, Mr Adelman went on, “I hope it emboldens leaders to drastic, not measured, approaches.”
American strategists became convinced that, with communism out of the way, America’s global duty was to take a leaf from its book. In future foreign relations would be as of old, essentially about war. As Mr Bush said after Baghdad, it was “just a question of one thing at a time”. His Pentagon adviser, Richard Perle, added his weight to the domino strategy. Interviewed by the International Herald Tribune on the fall of Baghdad, he declared: “If the question is who poses a threat that the United States deal with, then the list is well known. It’s Iran. It’s North Korea. It’s Syria. It’s Libya, and I could go on.” Go on he did. He went on to France. That country’s overwhelming support for Saddam was too much for America to bear. Small wonder Washington had renamed French fries “freedom fries”. Mr Perle doubted whether there could ever be constructive relations between America and France again. “I am afraid this is not something that is easily patched up and cannot be dealt with simply in the normal diplomatic way, because feeling runs too deep,” he said ominously. “It's gone way beyond the diplomats.” France could hardly complain it was not warned. The turn in American foreign policy at the start of the 21st century saw its final liberation from Cold War inhibition over the use of force. It was a reprise of the Wall Street maxim, “Greed is good”. War was good. The ease with which regimes fell to the bombardier and the tank seemed to render archaic the niceties of 20th- century collective security. In apparently eternal trauma over “9/11”, America expected understanding, support and obedience as it thrashed about the world in its rage and saw terrorists under every bed. Why bother with the old constraints? War worked. Key to this new strategy was that it could be implemented, thanks to the revolution brought by Mr Rumsfeld to the Pentagon in 2002-04. His “fight light, fight fast and bomb heavy” strategy terrorised and subdued enemies whose armies simply declined to fight. Mr Rumsfeld calculated, as had the German Army in 1938-39, that future wars had above all to move fast. They had to disorientate the enemy, economise on resources and keep an attendant media interested and supportive. They had to be short-burst. Mr Rumsfeld swept aside the costly Colin Powell doctrine of overwhelming force. He cancelled helicopters, heavy tanks and artillery. He sold the State Department to Holiday Inns. Saddam had been toppled with half the troops used in Kuwait. Even so, the Second Gulf War had almost lost momentum after two weeks outside Baghdad, suggesting that even two weeks was a risk. If American forces could only hit fast and hard enough and not care about consequences, Mr Rumsfeld could topple any rogue state on Earth. Given the domestic popularity they could deliver to the White House, why stop?
In these circumstances, the new Washington elite argued that America need not bother with ambassadors, treaties, international law, Nato or the United Nations. Why sign up to landmine conventions, war crimes tribunals and non-proliferation treaties? Of America’s friends abroad, only the British cared about these things, and after a bit of schmoozing they always did what they were told. By definition, nobody can guard the last guardian. Ultimate power can only legitimise itself. Why should America care about some snivelling European wielding a two-bit UN veto? The toppling of the Chirac regime was the inevitable application of this ideology. It was not imperialism. Washington had no desire to stick around when the cameras had already been directed to a new rogue. It was rather adventurism. American foreign policy did mergers and acquisitions, not management. They could topple but, as they found in Kabul and Baghdad, they had no clue about rebuilding. They just wanted to make a point. Upset Uncle Sam and you will lose your power, your palace, your art treasures and bring death and destruction to your cities. Tony Blair cheered the fall of France. He, too, had his reasons. He had longed to see M Chirac with a bloody nose. Since 2002 he had supported America’s new coercive diplomacy and grown hugely popular as a result. Not since Palmerston had nations quaked when a British leader said he had “no plans” to attack them. Now Mr Blair might be America’s chosen candidate for president of Europe. Anyway, Britain was in bed with America and could hardly climb out now. Washington would not like that. Mr Blair would not want a nasty hole at the end of The Mall, would he?
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Looters ransack Iraq's national library
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Looters and arsonists ransacked and gutted Iraq's National Library, leaving a smoldering shell Tuesday of precious books turned to ash and a nation's intellectual legacy gone up in smoke. They also looted and burned Iraq's principal Islamic library nearby, home to priceless old Qurans; last week, thieves swept through the National Museum and stole or smashed treasures that chronicled this region's role as the "cradle of civilization."
"Our national heritage is lost," an angry high school teacher, Haithem Aziz, said as he stood outside the National Library's blackened hulk. "The modern Mongols, the new Mongols did that. The Americans did that. Their agents did that," he said as an explosion boomed in the distance as the war winds down. The Mongols, led by Genghis Khan's grandson Hulegu, sacked Baghdad in the 13th century. Today, the rumors on the lips of almost all Baghdadis is that the looting that has torn this city apart is led by U.S.-inspired Kuwaitis or other non-Iraqis bent on stripping the city of everything of value. But outside the gutted Islamic library on the grounds of the Religious Affairs Ministry, the lone looter scampering away was undeniably Iraqi, a grizzled man named Mohamed Salman. "It was left there, so why leave it?" he asked a reporter as he clung to a thick, red-covered book, a catalog of the library's religious collection. The scene inside was total devastation. In much of the library, not a recognizable book or manuscript could be seen among the dark ash. The destruction has drawn condemnation worldwide, with many criticizing U.S.-led coalition forces for failing to prevent or stop the looting, sometimes carried out by whole Iraqi families. On Tuesday, U.S. officials acknowledged they were surprised by the rampage and said troops were too occupied by combat to intervene when they first reached Baghdad.
"I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the people of Iraq," U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said at a U.S. Central Command briefing in Qatar. The United Nation's cultural agency and the British Museum announced Tuesday they will send in teams to help restore ransacked museums and artifacts. Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, called on customs officials, police, art dealers and neighboring countries to block the trading of stolen antiquities. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined UNESCO in calling on Iraq's neighbors, international police, customs authorities and art experts to prevent the trade in stolen Iraqi objects.
Annan "deplores the catastrophic losses to Iraq's cultural heritage that have occurred," a statement from his spokesman said Tuesday. "He urges the Iraqi people to do what they can to restore that invaluable heritage by returning any looted items, and calls on the coalition authorities to act immediately to prevent further losses by protecting Iraq's archaeological and religious sites, museums and other cultural institutions," the statement said. Among the National Museum's treasures were the tablets with Hammurabi's Code one of mankind's earliest codes of law. It could not be immediately determined whether the tablets were at the museum when war broke out. Thieves smashed or pried open row upon row of glass cases at the museum and pilfered or destroyed their contents. Missing were the four millennia-old copper head of an Akkadian king, golden bowls and colossal statues, ancient manuscripts and bejeweled lyres. The looting and burning the museum in the northern city of Mosul also was pillaged has dealt a terrible blow to a society that prides itself on its universities, literature and educated elite. "I can't express the sorrow I feel. This is not real liberation," said an artist in a wing of the National Library that had been looted but not burned. The thin, bearded, 41-year-old man, who would not give his name, was going through old bound newspapers and tearing out pages whose artistic drawings appealed to him. "I came yesterday to see the chaos, and when I saw it, I decided to take what I could," he said.
The three-story, tan brick National Library building, dating to 1977, housed all books published in Iraq, including copies of all doctoral theses. It preserved rare old books on Baghdad and the region, historically important books on Arabic linguistics, and antique manuscripts in Arabic that teacher Aziz said were gradually being transformed into printed versions. "They had manuscripts from the Ottoman and Abbasid periods," Aziz said, referring to dynasties dating back a millennium. "All of them were precious, famous. I feel such grief." No library officials could be located to detail the loss. Haroun Mohammed, an Iraqi writer based in London, told The Associated Press some old manuscripts had been transferred from the library to a Manuscript House across the Tigris River. Except for wooden card catalog drawers and a carved-wood service counter which somehow escaped the flames, nothing was left in the National Library's main wing but its charred walls and ceilings, and mounds of ash. The floor on the ground level was still warm from the flames. Long rolls of microfilm littered the courtyard. "This was the best library in Iraq," said music student Raad Muzahim, 27, standing among piles of paper in the periodical room. "I remember coming as a student. They were hospitable, letting students do their research, write their papers.
Armored vehicles were positioned on the nearby street, manned by U.S. Marines. They did nothing to stop Tuesday's continuing trickle of looters.
Unesco to ready checklist of looted treasure
PARIS, April 15. — Unesco will send a team to Iraq to assess the damage that looting has caused to the country’s vast holdings of priceless antiquities. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) said the team would study the conditions of museums and historical sites, identify ways of restoring them and find potential donors. “The recent experience of Unesco... shows that culture can play a key role in the consolidation of peace process,” the organisation’s director-general Mr Koichiro Matsuura said today. Unesco said the team would travel “when conditions permit”. About 30 experts were to meet on Thursday for an initial assessment at the Unesco headquarters in Paris. After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government last week, looters stole and smashed priceless archaeological treasures from Iraq’s National Museum. The museum in Mosul was also pillaged. Baghdad’s Islamic Library, which holds one of the oldest surviving copies of the Quran, was set ablaze yesterday. Ancient Mesopotamia was the cradle of urban civilisation, and Iraq’s museums held priceless, millennia-old Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections. Mr Matsuura urged US and British forces occupying Iraq to take immediate measures to guard Iraq’s many archaeological sites and cultural institutions. He also called on several groups — countries bordering Iraq, customs officials, police and art dealers — to do all they can to block the trading of stolen antiquities. At a US Central Command briefing today in Doha, Qatar, US Brig.-Gen. Vincent Brooks was asked why US forces had failed to guard the museum. He said US troops were heavily occupied by combat when they entered Baghdad. “I don’t think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the people of Iraq,” he said. Mr Donny George, the director of antiquities at Iraq’s National Museum, told a TV channel today that US laxity allowed looters to come back again and again. Mr George said he went to the Marine Hq in Baghdad three days ago and waited for hours to talk with a colonel about security issues.
Missing Iraqi antiquities hidden for years
By Pamela Hess UPI Pentagon Correspondent From the International Desk Published 4/15/2003 5:51 PM View printer-friendly version
WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- Some of the priceless antiquities missing from the well-looted National Museum have been hidden in a vault elsewhere in Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War, where they were secreted for safe keeping, according to a U.S. Iraqi antiquities expert.
Meanwhile the National Museum of Iraq still had no U.S. military guards to protect it from looting and vandalism as of midday Tuesday, according to McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Gibson received word on conditions there from the deputy director of the museum via an official at the British Museum. The second location also is not being protected by U.S. soldiers, Gibson said, quoting his Iraqi sources and a British Museum official. He told United Press International the location but asked it not be revealed to prevent further looting. A CNN report suggested indicated the site was looted Tuesday and that at least one vault in the building was blown open. U.S. Marines were at the scene but were unable to stop the looters, according to CNN. Gibson was among the Iraqi antiquities experts who briefed the Pentagon and State Department in January about sensitive archeological sites and treasures that should be protected in the event of a war. Gibson told UPI he spoke by telephone with an official at the British Museum in London who in turn spoke Tuesday with Donny George, one of the National Museum of Iraq's top curators in the department of antiquities. George, an Iraqi, reported there are no U.S. guards outside the museum and staff members are afraid to go outside.
Gibson said the Pentagon and State Department are aware of the secret location but are not living up to their promises and obligations under international law to protect it. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hinted at the possibility of hidden treasures Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing. "I would suspect that over time we'll find that a number of things were in fact hidden prior to the conflict. That's what most people ... who run museums do prior to a conflict which was obviously well telegraphed in advance," Rumsfeld said. Rumsfeld rejected a suggestion that the military had not adequately planned to protect the museum. "To try to lay off the fact of that unfortunate activity on a defect in a war plan -- it strikes me as a stretch," he said. The U.S. government is offering monetary rewards for the return of missing antiquities, Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell said separately Tuesday. They did not say how much is available and how the awards will be administered. In Qatar, a U.S. Central Command spokesman said the looting had caught U.S. forces by surprise. "I don't think anyone anticipated that the riches of Iraq would be looted by the Iraqi people. And indeed it happened in some places," Brig, Gen. Vincent Brooks said Tuesday. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said while the looting was regrettable, it was vastly preferable to a long drawn-out ground war, which might have been the result had the military sent enough troops to completely secure the city from looting. "If, as some have said, 'Well, you should bring -- you should have stopped, you should have taken care of that,' my answer to that would be, any time you stop the combat operation and you prolong it, that the chance of more combat casualties and noncombatant casualties would increase," Myers said. "At the same time that museum was being looted, perhaps by criminals, we had Americans being wounded and dying in Baghdad. So your priorities, of course, are to finish the combat task," he told the Foreign Press Center Tuesday. "Obviously, if antiquities were destroyed, it's not a good thing, but in war, you have your priorities," he said. Myers urged reporters to keep the looting of the museum in perspective. "I think what I would say to somebody who said it was the greatest catastrophe in human history, that you would probably find some Iraqis who may say watching their son or daughter or brother or wife tortured in front of them might be a greater catastrophe. So I think we need to keep this in perspective," he said.
The National Museum of Iraq was closed to the public for much of the 1990s, according to The New York Times. CNN reported Tuesday some of the looters were apparently accomplished thieves and came with glass cutters and heavy equipment to lift massive pieces, according to museum officials.
Baghdad’s treasures may turn up on eBay
By Niala Boodhoo
Washington, April 15: Anti-quities experts, dismayed that US officials failed to heed their warnings to protect Baghdad’s historic artefacts during the war, said on Monday they were concerned the priceless treasures looted from Iraq’s main museum may never be recovered. Some items have already reportedly shown up for sale in Paris, Prof. McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago said. Two markets for the items would exist: collectors willing to pay millions for the high- end items and others who would pay much less for smaller items like pottery. "Average kind of pottery could well sell on (the Internet auction site) eBay for like $20 or $50," Archaeological Institute for America’s Patty Gerstenblith said. Experts are trying to set up a website to provide a catalogue of what was in the museum. (Reuters)
Korean cultural treasures abroad
About 75,000 Korean cultural artifacts, including designated national treasures, are in foreign museums or other public institutions, Representative Kim Byung-ho, a Grand National Party member of the National Assembly’s Culture and Tourism Committee, said yesterday. He proposed that Seoul set up a government agency akin to those in Greece and Iceland to work to bring the cultural assets back home. “Korean cultural items that are held by museums and universities, not individual collectors, amount to 75, 266 pieces in 20 nations,” Mr. Kim said.
Included is “Mongyudowondo,” a painting of a “peach paradise” by the Joseon Dynasty painter An Gyeon. The painting is in Korean textbooks, but on display only at Tenri University in Japan. Other relics listed by Mr. Kim were a 13th-century metal print and Joseon Dynasty royal court documents, in the French Bibliotheque Nationale, and a white porcelain bottle with grape design from the Joseon Dynasty, which is in the U.S. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By country, Japan possesses the most Korean cultural products, about 34,100 items, followed by about 16,100 in the United States, 6,600 in Britain, 5,200 in Germany, 3,500 in Russia and 1,900 in France.
by Kim Ji-soo email@example.com
From: "Lyndon" firstname.lastname@example.org To: "Ton Cremers" email@example.com
Subject: Fw: The 5th World Archaeological Congress
Date sent: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 06:52:27 +0100
Here is a brief up-date on WAC-5. Over the last few months we have had many, many emails from people, offering views ranging from 'cancel it' to 'move it to another country' to 'we don't want the Congress to be a political football'. After much thought and discussion with WAC Executive and many of the people who are on this list we have decided that the Congress will go ahead in Washington DC in June 2003, with room for people to present their concerns on archaeology and war (e.g. an open mike session, a major theme on 'The Heritage of War'), and to remain true to the academic program. As you know, we have a very strong program, with more than 1,000 individual abstracts. We are committed to keeping this core program strong while at the same time structuring room for voices on archaeology and war. The web address, if you have forgotten it is:
http://www.american.edu/wac5 For those people who are following he following the pillaging of the museums in Iraq m, here is a link to a comprehensive site on this topic
http://cctr.umkc.edu/user/fdeblauwe/iraq.html Having said the above, we would like to remind people that their final texts are due (May 1st, with an extension built in there till May 15th), in order to be posted and "pre-circulating" before the congress. The final "preliminary" program schedule will be on the web site by May 1st. We remind people that after April 30th, registration rates will go up to the "AT THE DOOR" rates, and this is a good time to secure cheaper registrations. After May 1st, no refunds will be provided for cancellations.
Finally, we would like to encourage people to attend WAC-5, but we certainly understand if some people - for a range of reasons- are unable to do so.
all the best, Claire Smith and Joan Gero
Claire Smith Deputy Academic Secretary, Fifth World Archaeological Congress Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA. 5001. Australia Ph: 61 (0)8 8201 2336 Fax: 61 (0)8 8201 3845 http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/archaeology http://www.american.edu/wac5
------- End of forwarded message -------
Since March 21, 2003 H-Museum presents:
Iraq - The cradle of civilization at risk. Cultural heritage and historical monuments.
The current focus contains:
Introduction, Iraq News Digests, Selected Articles and Documents, Journals and Magazines, Museums/Collections/Institutions, Online-Resources The current focus looks from a cultural and historical perspective at present developments concerning the military conflict in Iraq. Included are also special editions of the News Digest, which contains articles from the time of the first Gulf War to the present dealing with the historical monuments, archaeological sites, and museums in Iraq.
Part 3 - April 2003: http://www.h-museum.net/iraq_3.html
Part 2 - January - March 2003: http://www.h-museum.net/iraq_two.html
Part 1 - 1991 - December 2002: http://www.h-museum.net/iraq_one.html
I forward to you the URL of a site that contains further information about the looting of museums in Iraq.
We all continue to do what we can around the world to raise awareness about illicit traffic and the likely fate of museum collection objects unless a concerted effort can be made to inhibit their trade. That seems to be one of the most urgent points of focus, while we take other actions to assist our colleagues in their distress and do something about the terrible situation for museums and others concerned with knowledge, historical archives and the cultural heritage people in Iraq.
Internet aids hunt for missing vessels
By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer April 16, 2003
Other links: • University of Alabama's inventory of the stolen items: http://www.museums.ua.edu/oar/stolenartifacts/
One night in March 1980, someone broke into the Erskine Ramsey Archaeological Repository at Moundville and stole boxes of jars, bottles, bowls, ornaments and jewelry dating back 800 years. Today, 23 years later, researchers are launching a global effort to recover the antiquities, whose worth is estimated at about $1 million. This effort comes just after days of looting in Iraq, following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, brought international attention to the value of archaeological treasures. Looters stole or destroyed priceless antiquities in Iraq’s National Museum that were thousands of years old. What happened to Moundville’s treasures remains unknown. Hoping to solve that 23-year-old disappearance of 70 percent of the museum’s exhibit- quality artifacts, the University of Alabama’s Office of Archaeological Research has created a Web site with photographs of the missing relics. “Whoever stole the vessels knew exactly what they were doing because they stole the best ones," said Jim Knight, chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Alabama. He referred to the heist as the largest antiquities theft in the South’s history.
“I don’t think people realize that a huge chunk of Alabama’s heritage has been stolen," he said. Excavated in the 1930s, the artifacts made up about 20 percent of the museum’s entire vessel collection. Most of them were high-quality engraved or painted ceremonial pots and bowls, some which held food offerings that were buried with the dead. Others were ordinary cooking pots, bottles and shell jewelry. Knight said that many of the vessel engravings depict supernatural creatures, such as the flying serpent, which would guard a person’s passage into the afterlife. Flying serpents have the bodies of snakes, with deer antlers and wings. “Some of the designs are highly distinctive of Moundville," Knight said. UA’s Office of Archaeological Research will publicize its campaign to retrieve the artifacts in local, state, national and international publications. Knight theorized that perhaps the items in the collection are still together because none of them have been recovered. Knight said he wouldn’t be surprised if the artifacts showed up at a flea market in Tuscaloosa or in a multi-million dollar collection in Japan. The major crimes and transportation unit of the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division has compiled a National Stolen Art File. Illegal trade in art and cultural artifacts is a major category of international crime. It is a federal offense to steal “any object of cultural heritage" from a museum. It is also illegal to possess such items knowing that they have been stolen, a term called “fencing." The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act makes it illegal to sale human remains or cultural artifacts of Native Americans unless a person legally owns the item
Collectors pay millions of dollars for antiquities such as the Moundville vessels, Knight said. Each of the Moundville items has an identification number, which can be matched to the number on the Web site. Knight said that there is no particular reason why a Web gallery was created to help locate the objects. “I don’t really know what the chances are of getting them back, but it’s worth a try," he said. Because not all of them were photographed, only 238 of the 264 items are pictured on the Web site, said Sam Mizell, Moundville’s technology director and designer of the Web site. “Putting the images on the Web will reach a larger audience than we would have otherwise," he said. “Hopefully, it will lead to their recovery. They are some of the best pieces to have been excavated from the park." The Mississippian Indians settled in what is now the Moundville area at the beginning of the 11th century. The area reached its peak activity and population around 1300 when it had about 1,000 residents. About 10,000 resided in the Black Warrior Valley floodplain. “Moundville is considered a world heritage site. It’s the local equivalent of Stonehenge in England and the pyramids in Egypt," Knight said. “It’s the largest site of its kind in the South, and this collection is the largest collection of artifacts." There will be a reception to launch the recovery effort at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Room 205 of Smith Hall, Sixth Ave., on the UA campus. Knight will speak about the missing artifacts before the free reception. The public is invited.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 722-0210.
BOOK 'EM: L.I. THIEVES GRAB TOMES WORTH 500G
April 16, 2003 --
A burglar got away with a historic haul - half a million dollars worth of antique books and paintings heisted from an old home. Nassau Detective Sgt. Gary Walsh said the theft was noticed over the weekend and took place sometime between April 6 and April 11 at the historic George Allen Tenant Home at 36 Main St. in Roslyn. Walsh said the burglar made off with about 100 antiquarian books from the 18th and 19th centuries, and 12 historic paintings and etchings that were hanging on the wall.
The home is privately owned but was not occupied. Walsh asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-TIPS. Calls are confidential.
Date sent: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 17:30:07 +0100 From: Martin Royalton-Kisch mroyaltonkisch@British-Museum.ac.uk
TSubject: Re: FW: ICOM-CC appalled by looting in Iraq - AND - ICOM-CC offers conservationexpertise
Iraq's cultural heritage
In response to the message by Jorgen Wadum just circulated, I thought colleagues might be interested in the following. The British Museum houses the largest collection of antiquities from present-day Iraq outside that country, and only last year hosted a conference attended by several Iraqi curators:
The following is the text for a press release being issued by the British Museum this afternoon (16 April).
INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION FOR THE PAST OF IRAQ
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, announced at a press conference yesterday (15 April) how the museum plans to help museums and archaeologists in Iraq. He said 'The British Museum is not just holder of one of the greatest collections of Mesopotamian Antiquities but has become perhaps the leading centre of scholarship on Mesopotamia in terms of conservation, research and understanding. That means that the BritishMuseum is uniquely placed to do something to help our Iraqi colleagues as they think about how they can try to repair the catastrophe that has befallen them'. John Curtis, Keeper of the Ancient Near East Department of the British Museum and a leading expert on Iraq's antiquities, will be travelling to Iraq next week. He will meet curators as they assess the extent of the damage and loss, and then begin the process of planning what can be done to help. The museum plans to send a team of conservators and curators to Iraq when it is safe to travel there. They will work with their Iraqi colleagues to help in the task of restoration, where that is possible. The British Museum, working closely with UNESCO, has invited museum colleagues from Europe and America to an international round-table on how the British Museum and the academic community can help colleagues in Iraq. This conference will take place at the British Museum on 29 April.
The British Museum is urging the British and US Governments to strengthen the law on dealing in stolen antiquities and to offer an amnesty to anyone who returns stolen artefacts to the public collections of Iraq.
Looting of Iraqi antiquities throws spotlight on illicit art trade
By Joseph Coleman, Associated Press, 4/16/2003 13:47
PARIS (AP) The world has seen it before: looters ransack museums in the aftermath of war, and priceless plunder vanishes into a shadowy and highly profitable global network of antiquity traffickers and their customers. The halls and display rooms of Iraq's ravaged museums and libraries are still littered by the ruins left by rampaging looters. But curators, law enforcement and others are already scrambling to assess the damage, document what's missing and try to recover the pilfered. Key to the effort, experts say, will be to collect photographs and descriptions of what's lost and spread the word so customs agents, museums and collectors can identify stolen pieces. ''When a very important painting of Manet or Van Gogh is taken from a museum, it is very difficult to put it on sale on the market because these objects are very well known,'' said Mounir Bouchenaki, UNESCO's assistant director-general for culture. Details on the state of Iraq's museums were still sketchy Wednesday, and Bouchenaki and others were hesitant to speculate on what had been lost or whether the looting had been highly organized. The Paris- based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has planned a meeting of 30 experts Thursday to try to catalog what's missing, and Bouchenaki said he has urged Iraq's neighbors to tighten customs checks for pilfered treasures. He is also enlisting the help of Interpol. There is high interest in the art world about damage to Iraqi museum inventories, which contain vital information on the holdings. The records office of the National Museum, for example, was ransacked, though it was not clear what was destroyed.
Some say theft or destruction of records could indicate a professional job.
''The purpose obviously is you're making it harder for material to be identified and be claimed in the future,'' said Neil Brodie, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge, England. ''So if there was any organization, that to me is one indication of it.'' There are also questions about the quality of Iraqi records. The museums were low on cash and equipment needed to photograph and otherwise properly document and catalog what they had. ''Documentation is very important,'' said Jacques Perot, president of the International Council of Museums in Paris. ''The Iraqi museums were a bit isolated in the museum world.''
By all accounts, their collections were stunning.
Modern-day Iraq is home to ancient Mesopotamia, considered the cradle of civilization. Iraqi museum and library collections chronicled and illustrated the flowering of ancient cultures, as well as Baghdad's later role as an Islamic center. Among the National Museum's treasures were the tablets with Hammurabi's Code, one of the earliest codes of law. It still is not clear whether the tablets were at the museum when it was sacked. A preliminary survey provided a limited indication of the types of treasures missing or destroyed: a four-millennia-old copper head of an Akkadian king, golden bowls, imposing statues and ancient manuscripts. Such items would be highly prized in the underground antiquities market, which stretches from local bands of looters to larger gangs and networks often linked to drug trafficking. Looted goods typically are smuggled across borders and change hands many times, making their origins murky by the time they make it to dealers and auctioneers in Europe, the United States and Japan. Since the 1970s, organizations like UNESCO have pushed for tighter controls on what museums consider acceptable purchases, and the International Council of Museums has issued ethical guidelines for dealers.
But the illegal trade is being fueled by several trends: the Internet has provided a hard-to-control forum for illicit auctions and technology has given looters better tools to find treasures in tombs and other archaeological sites. Exploitation of sites in Asia and Africa is booming. Because the trade is clandestine, experts say it is nearly impossible to define the size of the market. Estimates of the money changing hands over pilfered antiquities range widely, to as high as $4 billion, said Brodie. The network of illicit antiquities dealing in Iraq is also well-developed; thousands of antiquities had disappeared from the country even before the current war. Given the scale of the destruction in Iraq, some doubt authorities will have much luck tracking lost items. Walter Sommerfeld, professor of Ancient Oriental Studies at the University of Marburg in Germany, said the artifacts would likely disappear into the collections outside Iraq. ''Iraq has no lobby, it can't defend itself,'' he said. ''The best we can do is to make the public aware of the importance of the loss.''
Hunt for the raiders of the lost art
By Michael Binyon
Defeated in war, Iraq is losing the peace, as the treasures of the cradle of civilisation are stolen or destroyed. Our critic reports on a cultural catastrophe and what is being done to fight it
A NATION’S HISTORY is its identity. And Iraq, the cradle of civilisation and birthplace of writing, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and codified law, has been pillaged of its history and looted of its identity. Archaeologists believe the ransacking of the magnificent National Museum in Baghdad is a catastrophe on the scale of the burning of the library at Alexandria. Some 170,000 items, dating back thousands of years and worth billions of pounds, have been stolen or destroyed. Priceless artefacts have vanished overnight from Baghdad and Mosul. Masterpieces from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic cultures have been taken at gunpoint from their display cases and 5,000-year-old tablets bearing some of the earliest known writing stuffed into sacks to be smuggled abroad for rapacious collectors.
The tragedy has provoked international uproar. Western museums have launched an urgent rescue mission to trace and return the missing treasures. Downing Street has demanded a list of the antiquities that can be circulated to British troops in Iraq. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, has promised a military guard on remaining museums and important archaeological sites. And Unesco is to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to prepare an action plan. For many, it is too late. Shards of antique pottery, smashed stone sculptures and scattered bits of parchment abandoned in the museum galleries make clear that little care will be taken with the stolen antiquities. Many may be deliberately broken to conceal their origins, or cut up so that they can be more easily transported. After the shock, however, comes the anger. Iraqis are furious that negligence or indifference by coalition forces left their museums unguarded at the most vulnerable moment. The vaults that had protected man’s earliest sculptures and jewellery against the bombing were ransacked under the noses of American troops. Many will see this not as a lapse or the inevitable result of wartime chaos but as a deliberate attempt to humiliate and demoralise Iraq. It is not simply the historians or the educated who are upset. In all countries whose histories stretch back millennia — China, Greece, Egypt, India — there is universal awareness of the past. Every ordinary Egyptian takes pride in the Pyramids; every Chinese feels enriched by what his ancient ancestors left behind. Throughout history armies wanting to destroy their enemies have attempted to obliterate their history. This cultural genocide reached its peak in Europe under the Nazis. The armies that swept through Poland and Russia systematically burnt or pulled down those monuments to civilisations that the Nazis considered sub-human. The tsarist palaces on the outskirts of Leningrad were torched and gutted; the royal palace in Warsaw was blown up. And when the war ended, one of the first acts of the Polish and Soviet governments was to order the reconstruction of what was lost.
Many Iraqis already believe that allied forces targeted ancient sites during the first Gulf War out of malice; this new destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage may soon be attributed not to Iraqi criminals but to coalition intentions. Certainly war is incompatible with antiquity, as Mostar, Dubrovnik and Dresden have all found. During the 1991 Gulf War the great arch of Ctesiphon, the widest unsupported brick arch in the world, was cracked by the rumble of American bombing. The ancient spiral ziggurat at Ur was raked with machine-gun fire when the GIs last passed that way. There was a fair amount of what Dr John Curtis, keeper of the department of the Ancient Near East at the British Musum, drily calls “bayonet archaeology”. In this war US commanders were already provided with a list of the most important of an estimated 10,000 ancient sites in Iraq. The Americans claim that they took great care to avoid hitting these but say that Saddam Hussein deliberately sited many of his defences near such places to give them cover. Ironically, Saddam’s regime was one of the best at protecting Iraq’s heritage. Money was spent on excavations, grave robbers were summarily executed and the ancient treasures of the many peoples of Mesopotamia were adduced as evidence of Iraq’s glorious history. It may have been megalomania that prompted Saddam, like Hitler, to mythologise the past and compare himself with Nebuchadnezzar, but it certainly protected sites that foreign archaeologists insist belong to all mankind. The response of Western museums in putting out an SOS to warn anyone against buying the looted treasures may go some way to deflecting Iraqi anger. But it may, ironically, prompt a new and wholly unwelcome situation: the demand for the return of artefacts long held in the British Museum and other leading collections of Mesopotamian treasures. Unlike Greece, Iraq has, up till now, never made any demand for the return of what may be considered its patrimony and heritage. Most of the vast holdings — some 250,000 items in the BM alone — were acquired long ago, either being bought from the Ottoman rulers or excavated by expeditions that had full Iraqi approval. There is no Lord Elgin to fuel any ongoing dispute with Baghdad. But such a movement may well begin. Throughout the world, museums are struggling with the implications of the Unesco conventions that now forbid the theft of archaeological treasures and discourage the removal of national heritage. China has already demanded the return of treasures now scattered worldwide.
Unesco, which insists that it is neutral in the growing number of disputes between museums and the governments of archaeology-rich nations, has proposed setting up an office in the Iraqi capital immediately. It is lobbying for the protection of all main sites where robbers may now move in to seize artefacts not catalogued. It is trying to reconstruct a catalogue of what was lost. And it will mobilise the search for the missing treasures through Interpol, the World Customs Organisation, the Assocation of Antique Dealers and national governments. Many Iraqis are too traumatised by the war and too preoccupied with the struggle of daily life to focus on their lost heritage. But the blow will soon sink in — and the anger will be intense. After Saddam, Iraq wants a new democratic identity. But it also wants its history back.
Should cultural artefacts be repatriated?
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On the trail of stolen treasures
Outlook bleak for return of Iraqi art
By Suzanne Muchnic Special To The Sun Originally published April 16, 2003
It will take months to assess exactly what was destroyed and looted at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, but one thing is sure: The museum, the most important repository of Mesopotamian art in the world, will never be the same. It's now estimated that at least 100,000 objects are missing or damaged, and experts say much of the booty is probably already working its way through a thriving global black market in antiquities. After ancient sculptures, gold and silver jewelry and cuneiform tablets disappear in the black hole of illicit trade, experience indicates, they are unlikely to surface any time soon. Of the 4,000 artworks taken from museums during the Persian Gulf war of 1991 "maybe two" have been recovered, said McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist and authority on Iraqi art at the University of Chicago. As rumors were flying about where the latest loot had gone, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Monday issued a statement declaring that "objects and documents taken from museums and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international law. They are therefore stolen property, whether found in Iraq or other nations. Anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a crime." Warning everyone, and Americans in particular, against purchasing or handling the loot, Powell said that the United States would play a leading role in recovering stolen goods and protecting other museums and antiquities throughout Iraq, in cooperation with UNESCO and INTERPOL.
"It's an important step," Patty Gerstenblith, president of the Archaeological Institute of America, said of the statement. "It puts people on notice that those who deal with this material are subject to criminal prosecution." But stifling a black market with tentacles all around the world may be more difficult than taking control of Baghdad, art experts say. "There is no legitimate market for these objects," said Sharon Flescher, executive director of New York's nonprofit International Foundation for Art Research, which provides information on legal and ethical issues concerning works of art. "They are subject to every regulation dealing with stolen property - the national Stolen Property Act in the United States and similar laws in other countries." Officials of major art auction houses say that looted Iraqi material won't turn up in their sales. Objects consigned to auction appear in illustrated catalogs that are distributed to collectors, dealers, scholars, international police forces and the New York-based Art Loss Register, which maintains a database of lost and stolen items, said Matthew Weigman, head of communications at Sotheby's New York. But thieves have ways of circumventing laws and avoiding public scrutiny. Rumors are rampant that the trade in Iraqi art picked up in Paris before the war began and that some of it traveled through Syria. It's only a matter of time until more Iraqi loot appears in the back rooms of dealers in London, Zurich and other big cities, just like the artistic spoils of the war in Afghanistan, experts say. Some objects make long journeys with astonishing speed, others snake their way through bazaars of neighboring countries. But whatever the timeline or the itinerary may be, the action begins at home. "There are people within Iraq who buy this stuff from looters for export, Iraqis who deal with Iraqi antiquities," said attorney John Henry Merryman, a leading authority on art law and ethics who teaches law and art at Stanford University. Every nation that is rich in archaeological sites has a market for antiquities, he said, and Iraq is no different.
A Northern California scholar and collector of Iraqi art who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was contacted surreptitiously before the war and told that Iraqi antiquities would soon become available. Once an artifact is bought and sold, say art specialists, the only hope of getting it back is to turn up the heat by publicizing the art works by every available means. But that can't be done at the moment. "To make a database work, you need data," says Anna Kisluk of the Art Loss Register, which lists 128,000 stolen or missing art works. "As information becomes available, we will do what we can." But, she says, her organization depends on the victim institutions for the data on the missing items. The National Museum had "superb documentation" of its collection, Gibson says, but the documentation has been left in disarray and some of it may have been destroyed. What's more, there has been little interchange between the museum and its foreign counterparts during the past few decades. The only published sources about the collection available to most scholars are catalogs of traveling exhibitions staged many years ago. Gibson's students are already assembling information from those catalogs. The Archaeological Institute of America is planning to create a Web site of stolen works built from such sources; it will include the names of authorities to contact about the artifacts. But no matter how many people get involved, it's likely to take months before any clear record of the losses can be pieced together, Gibson says. Meanwhile, he says, governments must step up the investigation and prosecution of antiquities theft in general. "Everyone winks and pretends that they can't do anything about it. If I can find stolen objects in shops in London and New York and Paris, surely they can. They just don't put the manpower in it."
Suzanne Muchnic writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Museum looting likely well-executed theft, officials say
By MATTHEW SCHOFIELD and NANCY A. YOUSSEF Knight Ridder Newspapers
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi museum officials and U.S. military authorities now think that the much- publicized looting of antiquities from the world-renowned Iraq Museum was most likely a well- executed theft, perhaps planned before Baghdad fell. Museum officials have determined that most of the looting that did take place at the museum, home to more than 170,000 artifacts of human civilization, was focused on office machines and furniture, as at other government buildings, and that only selected antiquities were taken. "The people who came in here knew what they wanted. These were not random looters," Donny George, the director general of Iraq's state board of antiquities, said Wednesday in front of the museum as he held up four glass cutters - red-handled with inch-long silver blades - that he found on the floor of the looted museum. He pointed out that replica items - museum pieces that would have looked every bit as real to an angry mob as authentic items - were left untouched. The museum's extensive Egyptian collection, which is valuable, but not unique to the world, also was left alone. The news cheered some experts in the United States. Clemens Reichel, a University of Chicago archaeologist who specializes in Mesopotamia, said the idea that the theft might have been carried out by knowledgeable thieves lessened the likelihood that priceless artifacts would be melted down for the value of their metal. George said he hoped the United States would be able to help recover the items. "We always have hope here," he said. Behind him stood three M-1A1 Abrams tanks, a show of protection by the U.S. military that many in the crowd were muttering arrived five days too late.
American soldiers on guard duty here said that while the damage in the museum areas seemed bad, the appearance was deceiving. "It looked pretty bad inside, much worse than it was," said 2nd Lt. Erik Balascik, 23, of Allentown. Pa. "The administration building, the library, they are a mess. In the museum, there is broken glass and papers on the floor, but a lot of the collection was pulled before the war. And not as much is missing as first thought." In fact, in the main collection, it now appears that few items are missing, and very little seems to have been the victim of mob violence. Among the most valuable stolen pieces were the vase of Warka, from 3200 B.C., and the Basiqi, a bronze Acadian statue. Still, the damage is grave, George said. "What we have lost and what has been broken is priceless. We will never put a number on it." "Human civilization was here," he said. "There may have been other museums in the world that have small pieces of this story, but there was no collection so detailed with the evidence of human civilization."
The day began angrily at the museum, as an Army tank with the words "Compliments of the USA" squeezed through the main gate just after 10 a.m. As the tank pulled in, the first of three, it smashed a flowerbed, broke a water pipe and toppled a light post. Museum workers shook their heads, and complained that during the looting they had begged the military to protect the museum. While the Army did respond sporadically, it left and the looters, or thieves, returned. "We have lost masterpieces from the Syrian and Sumerian ages, from 5,000 years ago," George said. He turned to a soldier, pointed his finger and said: "You are too late." The decision finally to send a military guard to the museum is part of the next phase of protecting the city's buildings. The military already is protecting the electric company, the new police station and two large downtown hotels frequented by the international media. George said he was shocked that the United States began guarding the country's Ministry of Oil before the museum, saying that told him where the American priorities stood. The American Archeological Association had appealed to Pentagon officials to spare the museum during the war and protect it afterward. Hannah Abd al Khalid worked at the museum 35 years ago, and has been a devotee of it her entire life. She said she had trouble thinking about what the museum looked like now. "Everything was valuable," al Khalid said. "I have been crying for two days."
The military perspective is that it did all it could to protect the museum at the time. During the looting, "the fighting was still going on. The Republican Guard headquarters are across the street, and they were far from secure," Army Maj. Michael Donovan said. "Frankly, we were here to protect people and property, but in the early days we had to choose, and we chose people." The Iraq Museum isn't the only museum to succumb to looters. It's not even the oldest. Sixty miles southeast of Baghdad is Babylon, part of what is considered the cradle of civilization and home to the Hanging Gardens, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. During the war, Babylon was abandoned and the small museums leading to the ancient city were stripped to the walls. Mohammed Ali, 30, a museum security worker, walled the doors of one building with cinderblocks to prevent looting. Born in Babylon and part of a third generation of Babylonians who have worked at the museum, Ali also was schooled at the museum. "They took everything. They broke everything. Nothing is left," Ali said. "Babylon is surrounded by towns where the people are not educated." But there was some hope: Most of the museum artifacts were replicas. The originals were in the Iraq Museum.
Museum Pillage Described as Devastating but Not Total
By IAN FISHER
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 16 — Curators surveyed the damage at the National Museum of Iraq today, and expressed both worry at how much might have been stolen in the looting last week and tentative hope that thousands of years of Iraq's cultural heritage might not have vanished completely.
"It's not a total loss," Donny George, the director of research for the Iraqi Board of Antiquities, said in an interview today. "But some of the major masterpieces are gone." The museum, which housed a priceless collection dating back 7,000 years to the Sumerian civilization, was looted over two days following the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. The pillaging infuriated Iraqis who complained that American troops here did little to stop it. Two other repositories of artifacts, the National Library and a collection of old handwritten Korans, were also burned and stripped clean in what many experts believe may be an irrecoverable disaster for Islamic cultural heritage. With the museum at last under the protection of American troops and tanks, Dr. George said today that part of the collection had been stored in vaults in the basement just before the war, though some of the heavier and more fragile items remained in the galleries. Some items were also taken elsewhere for storage. He said looters did manage to break into the basement, but said his team of experts had only begun assessing the extent of the damage. "We have to check all the boxes to see what is lost," he said, "and that will take time, a lot of time." Dr. George listed three treasures he said were missing: a three-foot carved Sumerian vase from 3200 B.C., a headless black statue of the Sumerian king Entemena, dating from 2600 B.C., and a carved sacred cup of the same age. In the last several days, officials from Unesco and the British Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Mesopotamian antiquities, said they would send experts to Iraq to help assess the losses.
In New York, Dr. Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said he was gaining wide support for proposals that the museum looters be offered immunity from prosecution and some compensation if they return their loot. He said he had spoken on Tuesday with Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, about efforts to recover the artifacts. "He agreed that immunity and compensation was the way to go," Dr. de Montebello said of Mr. Rove, who did not indicate what, if anything, the White House was prepared to do. In one possibly encouraging sign, several people in the Al Awi neighborhood that surrounds the museum said they did not see looters leave with any antiquities, even amid gun battles and looting that lasted two days. An imam who lives behind the museum said he stood outside the museum for several hours on the first day of the looting, begging them to stop. "I kept reminding them that this is their country and it was against Islam to steal," said the imam, who asked not to be identified. But he said the only items from the collection he saw stolen were several old rifles. Mostly, he said, he saw looters take chairs, typewriters, ceiling lamp fixtures and other items from the museum's offices, as happened at nearly every other government office in the capital.
Abed El Rahman, a museum security guard who lives on the premises, also said that rifles were the only items he saw stolen from the collections. "But many people were carrying boxes," he said. "I don't know what was in the boxes." Mr. Rahman began to cry when asked what the museum was like before it was looted. "It was beautiful," he said. "The museum is civilization."
Why are we allowing the rape of Iraq?
By Boris Johnson (Filed: 17/04/2003)
Suppose the government of your country had just sustained a cataclysmic reverse. It might have been an evil government, but it was yours. Suppose that your army had just been cut to ribbons by a force so overwhelmingly superior that comparisons had been drawn with the massacres of the Zulus, or the Aztecs. You might think that your country's army had been fighting for a bad man. But it was your army.
Suppose you were asked to agree with the victors that the past 25 years of your nation's history had been an appalling aberration. You might be among the huge numbers of Iraqis who rejoice to see the downfall of Saddam. But it is your country's history that is being anathematised. You would be only human if, at the same time, you yearned for something you could cling to; some symbol of an Iraq that predated Saddam. You would want some evidence that there was still something about you and your country that was great, and admirable, and unique. And then imagine that, under the eyes of the incoming army, the most splendid treasures of your national museum were carted off. Not the usual melange: the Impressionist donated by a supermarket tycoon's wife; the ho-hum sculpture by Degas. No, imagine that your country has suddenly been pillaged of its most emblematic works, the equivalent of the Crown Jewels, things that were meant eternally to incarnate the culture of your land. Think how you would feel if you knew that, even now, these things were being secretly crated up, given false bills of sale and deprived of their museum code numbers. How would it strike you, when you reflect that these things are about to be flogged to the tiny minority who can afford to buy them, principally in the conquering country? I supported this war, and I support it. But it fills me with rage to think that at least some of the spoils of Iraq's National Museum will, in all likelihood, end up as the bibelots in the brownstone of some banker in New York.
No one knows what has happened to the limestone Warqa Vase of 3,500 bc, or the bull's head harp of Ur, or the squatting Akkadian king of 2,300 bc. According to Irving Finkle, of the Ancient Near East department of the British Museum, at least four of the looted objects were so vast - such as a larger-than-life sculpture of an Assyrian king - that it would have taken a fork-lift truck to move them. As Dr Finkle points out, all it required was a couple of determined American troops to stand outside, with or without a tank. Now 170,000 items are missing, and all because America was unwilling to expend the necessary resources. Why? If you launched a military operation against Athens, wouldn't you take steps to prevent the destruction of the Parthenon? In this week's Spectator, Rod Liddle talks to an archaeologist who attended a meeting on January 24 at the US Defence Department, of a newly formed group called the American Council for Cultural Policy. The chairman, William Pearlstein, represents about 60 leading American lawyers and collectors. According to Pearlstein, Iraq's policy towards cultural artefacts has been excessively "retentionist". The group apparently told American defence chiefs that, under the new regime, it would like "more objects to be certified for export". Well, whatever you say about the post-war Iraqi order, its policy towards historic artefacts is about as retentionist as a burst paper bag. If I were an Iraqi, joyful at the removal of Saddam, but struggling to come to terms with the crushing of my country by America, I would want to know how this has happened. I would be instinctively "retentionist", because in a dirt-poor country, fallen on very hard times, these objects remind me that Mesopotamia, not America, was once the greatest country on Earth. In fact, it was a mere 4,000 years ago that Iraq was a bit of a superpower, the Assyrian having such a big technological advantage over his enemies that he came down like the wolf on the fold. The ringleted beards, the winged lions, the chariots made of electrum - all that beautiful stuff was made when Europeans were thudding each other with lumps of wood.
The treasures stolen from the Baghdad museum should not only have been a source of tourist income to future generations, but also a visible testimony to the point made by Lt Col Tim Collins at the outset of the war: that this was a country worthy of respect. And now those objects will turn up - if they turn up at all - in Tokyo salerooms and the guest washrooms of Floridian real estate kings. If I were a "retentionist" Iraqi, I would want to know how and why this group gained such access to the US Defence Department. I would like to know whether it is true that some of them have been in contact with President Bush. I would like to know how the Americans could let this happen, when 4,000 objects were looted after the 1991 Gulf war, and only a fraction of them recovered. What steps are the coalition forces taking to stop this happening again? As I write, there is still apparently no adequate protection for the National Museum, to say nothing of the provincial museums. Why, finally, did Geoff Hoon seem last week to condone the looting of official buildings? I can think of no explanation, except perhaps that the Government may wish to use the chaos to explain away another embarrassment.
Perhaps we will shortly be told that the looters have snaffled the weapons of mass destruction. Whatever our motives, we have allowed Iraq's heritage to be badly damaged. We must do what we can to make it good, and in an ideal world not so much as a broken potsherd will pass into the hands of anyone connected with the American Council for Cultural Policy.
Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator