News

Archeologists Publicize Stolen Iraqi Artifacts to Thwart Theives - 2003-05-07

In the days and weeks since the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, archeologists all over the world have mobilized their resources to help publicize the missing artifacts. A growing number of images of priceless objects stolen from the museum are now appearing on the Internet, in the hope that publicity will discourage thieves from selling the artifacts on the black market. One of the leading academic institutions trying to help in the search is the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, where scholars are involved in the search for the lost treasures from Iraq. Melinda Smith reports.

One of the best-known treasures missing from the Iraqi National Museum is a copper head from Nineveh.

A king’s gold helmet originally discovered in the Royal Cemetery at Ur.

An ivory plaque of a woman’s head, from Nimrud.

A scarlet ware jar, an alabaster vase.

With so many records destroyed in the looting, it is hard to pin down the actual size of the loss. Charles Jones is part of the team at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute that is posting images on the Internet.

CHARLES JONES, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’S ORIENTAL INSTITUTE
“We have processed some thousands of photographs at this moment and we have promises of many, many more coming in from collaborators.”

University of Chicago archeologist Tony Wilkinson is an expert on Mesopotamia and has worked in Iraq with scholars from the Baghdad Museum. He says the loss of so many treasures is immeasurable.

TONY WILKINSON, ARCHEOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
“It represents the greatest concentration of artifacts from the origins of civilization, from the origins of agriculture, the origins of writing and the origins of our civilization.”

The theft and destruction of so many priceless objects has angered archeologists like Tony Wilkinson. In the months of planning before the invasion of Iraq, experts from the University of Chicago and other institutions say they had worked with Pentagon officials to protect the museum in Baghdad and map many of the archeological sites in the countryside.

TONY WILKINSON, ARCHEOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
“Because we didn’t want to appear as just sort of wooly-minded academics, we gave very specific recommendations. And these recommendations were, that at the first available opportunity that there was a conflict and there was a sign that there was going to be serious trouble in the city, then…that troops and tanks should be posted at the major museums and especially the Iraq museum in Baghdad and that they should be protected.”

NATURAL SOUND – TONY WILKINSON SPEAKING
“That is why it is all the more tragic that someone, somewhere, dropped the ball on this issue of the protection of what was the key site and the key museum in the entire country.”

In response to the archeologists’ criticism, that American troops had not done enough to protect the museum, a U.S. Department of Defense official issued this statement.

NATURAL SOUND – NARRATOR SPEAKING
Quote: “At no time during any of these meetings did we ever try to guarantee…as a matter of fact…we went out of our way to tell people that the active humanitarian mapping was not any form of guarantee that facilities would either not be bombed or would be protected at any cost. [The U.S. military] were engaged in combat operations, which they rightly thought was the more important thing to be taking care of at that particular time.” Endquote.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has promised help in the restoration of the museum.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
“The United States will be working with a number of individuals and organizations to not only secure the facility, but to recover that which has been taken, and also to participate in restoring that which has been broken.”

Almost two weeks after thieves broke into the Baghdad museum, some of the smaller items were returned, with no questions asked. University of Chicago’s Tony Wilkinson believes many more artifacts will wind up on the black market or gone for good.

TONY WILKINSON, ARCHEOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
“The problem is of course for the person who is trading these items is that the really expensive, really valuable and spectacular objects are rather well known and they're easily traced.”

With the loss of so many thousands of objects from Baghdad, artifacts in other museums outside of Iraq have become increasingly more important links to the past.

While the Oriental Institute’s collection at the University of Chicago is small compared to the Iraqi Museum’s, it is still considered one of the world’s best. All of the objects in the Oriental Institute’s collection come from excavations in the Mesopotamian region.

For decades until the Gulf War in 1991, there was a close collaboration between archeologists from the Oriental Institute and those in Baghdad. In 1929 during an excavation in Iraq, the institute’s archeologists discovered this colossal human-headed winged bull, representing King Sargon the second. It was given to the Institute by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. The massive mythical figure stands more than four and a half meters tall and weighs 40 tons and is flanked on each side by a relief of loyal subjects paying homage.

Scholars from the Chicago’s Oriental Institute say they look forward to the day when they can work once again with their colleagues in Iraq. In the meantime, they are doing what they can by means of the Internet.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs