Friday, April 29, 2005

LOST HISTORY

History lost in dust of war-torn Iraq.
By Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly Independent archaeologist and journalist.

Carved cylinders were rolled across soft clay to form an identifiable seal. It is two years since looters ravaged one of the world's most important museums, in central Baghdad. Saddam Hussein's power had collapsed and the newly arrived US-led coalition forces were unable to prevent a crime against history.
Professional smugglers connected to the international antiquities mafia managed to break some of the sealed doors of the Baghdad Museum storage rooms. They looted priceless artefacts such as the museum's entire collection of cylindrical seals and large numbers of Assyrian ivory carvings.
More than 15,000 objects were taken. Many were smuggled out of Iraq and offered for sale.
To date, 3,000 have been recovered in Baghdad, some returned by ordinary citizens, others by the police. In addition, more than 1,600 objects have been seized in neighbouring countries, some 300 in Italy and more than 600 in the United States.
Most of the stolen items are unaccounted for, but some private collectors in the Middle East and Europe have admitted possessing objects bearing the initials IM (Iraq Museum inventory number).

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