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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs