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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora