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Important Iraqi Museum Artifacts Recovered - 2003-11-11

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  • Ryu report - Important Iraqi Museum Artifacts Recovered - long - rm - 11nov03

Museum officials in Baghdad say Iraqi policemen and U.S. soldiers have recovered two of the most important artifacts stolen by looters following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Officials at the Iraqi National Museum say Iraqi policemen and U.S. military police recovered the priceless artifacts eight days ago, hidden at two locations in the Iraqi capital.

The most important recovered item is the 4,300-year-old copper Bassetki statue, considered the museum's second most important relic. The 150 kilogram statue, showing the lower part of a seated boy, is believed to have stood at the door of the palace of an Akkadian king in present-day southern Iraq.

The other relic, a mobile heater used by Assyrian kings to warm themselves in cold weather, is made of wood and bronze and dates back to the 9th century BC.

The museum's director, Donny George Youkhana, said he cannot overstate the importance of the recovery of the statue and the warmer. "We had two masterpieces, not only in the Iraq Museum but masterpieces in the history of art of mankind. So it's a great day today," he said.

Three men were arrested after U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police received a tip about the whereabouts of the artifacts. U.S. Army Corporal Cory Hassler said one of the men led him to the Bassetki statue, which the man had buried in a cesspool. "The guy took us to where he said he had hidden it and it happened to have just been buried in human feces. So, we dug it up, loaded it up in a Humvee, and drove it back," he said.

Museum officials say many of the most important pieces originally reported missing have since been recovered.

The museum's top-listed piece, the Lady of Warka, was recovered in September in an orchard on the outskirts of the capital. The 5,000-year-old statue is known as the Sumerian Mona Lisa.

Thousands of artifacts were looted from the museum in the chaos after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in early April. The looting prompted international criticism of U.S. forces, saying the troops did not do enough to protect Iraq's ancient treasures.

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