News

    US Investigators Help Track Stolen Iraqi Antiquities - 2003-05-17

    Multimedia

    Audio

    U.S. investigators say the looting of Iraqi antiquities after the recent war was not nearly as extensive as originally feared. Nevertheless, they note that tracking items that are still missing will probably take a long time.

    Fourteen U.S. military and civilian experts are assessing the theft of ancient treasures from Iraq's National Museum, which was looted after allied forces occupied Baghdad last month.

    The museum housed treasures several thousand years old excavated from the land where civilization began.

    The U.S. Marine colonel leading the probe, Matthew Bogdanos, says museum officials' original estimate of 170,000 missing artifacts was a gross exaggeration. But he adds it is difficult to know with certainty what looters took because the museum had no master list of its collection.

    "It's simply at this point impossible to give you numbers because there are tens of thousands of pieces that don't just have to be counted, but they have to be compared against inventory lists that in some cases don't exist or can't be found," he explained.

    In a briefing from Baghdad for Washington reporters, Colonel Bogdanos said his investigators have recovered nearly 1,000 looted items, many through a general amnesty program. These include one of the oldest known bronze relief bowls, one of the earliest recorded Sumerian statues, and an 8,000-year-old pottery jar.

    "Every time we recover a single piece, it's an absolute joy to those of us on the investigation," he stressed.

    In addition, Colonel Bogdanos said museum officials hid nearly 50,000 treasures elsewhere in Baghdad before the war began. These include ancient books and Islamic manuscripts and scrolls being protected by Iraqi citizens at a bomb shelter and gold and silver jewelry hidden in an underground Iraqi Central Bank vault. Colonel Bogdanos said the vault will be opened in the future by what he called an appropriate authority.

    "This team has no authority to open underground vaults of the Central Bank of Iraq," he pointed out. "When the bank vaults are opened, there will be an investigator physically present to determine whether or not the items that are claimed to be in the underground vault are in fact in the underground vault."

    The U.S. military official says the evidence shows that some of the looting was carried out by people who knew what they wanted from the public galleries. Others apparently knew the museum's private layout and sacked items locked in basement storage rooms. A third group was made up of random looters. Whether there was collusion among these groups is unknown.

    The U.S. investigators say they will present any evidence of theft to a future Iraqi government for possible prosecution. Colonel Bogdanos said his group is working with international police authorities, U.S. government agencies, and customs officials of neighboring Jordan to help intercept antiquities that might have left Iraq.

    "The majority of the work remaining, that of tracking down each of these missing pieces, will likely take years," he said.

    But some scholars believe there is little hope of recovering antiquities taken from Iraq. Boston University archeologist Paul Zimansky says U.S. courts, for example, have been reluctant to enforce other countries' laws that bar export of cultural property.

    "The art dealers do better than archaeologists when it comes to this sort of thing," he said. "Museum numbers will be effaced. There will be this pretense that this stuff left the country long ago and had nothing to do with the thing that looks exactly like it that was in the museum. So it's going to be tough to win those cases."

    Mr. Zimansky cited a case where an individual was caught smuggling a Peruvian antiquity into the United State. He said a court permitted him to keep it because Peruvian officials could not present an inventory listing the item.

    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's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.