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18 September 2014
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Return to the Iraq Museum: The Cost of War

By Dan Cruickshank
Different fates

The different fates suffered by the different types of museum buildings have led Colonel Bogdanos to speculate on the types of thieves who were operating. In his report 'Antiquity Loss in Iraq' he says there were informed individuals looking for key items from the public galleries. The evidence in the storerooms, 'strongly suggests that this magazine was...entered not by random looters but by thieves with an intimate knowledge of the museum and its storage practices...whether that knowledge came because it was an employee, or from information obtained from an employee, we are not able to say at this point.' He also identifies a class of indiscriminate looters.

'...they did not want to return the contents to the museum while the existing Ba'ath party hierarchy remained in charge.'

In the course of my trip, US forces showed me a bomb shelter that contained over 300 metal cases from the museum, packed with 40,000 precious books and manuscripts. The store was well prepared and protected, and its guardians said they did not want to return the contents to the museum while the existing Ba'ath party hierarchy remained in charge.

I also went to the vaults of the Central Bank of Iraq. The museum staff said that during the years following the first Gulf War, 20 cases had been deposited in the vault. I was told these contained 7,000 of the museum's most precious and vulnerable objects - including the treasure from Nimrud, the jewellery from the royal tombs at Ur, and the 4,500-year-old golden bull's head from the Harp of Ur.

Published: 2003-06-09



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