Archaeology Odyssey 5:2, March/April 2002

Plundering Iraq

Should looted antiquities be returned to rogue states?

In this interview with Archaeology Odyssey editor Hershel Shanks, John Malcolm Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art—an expert on the looting of Iraq and author of The Final Sack of Nineveh: The Discovery, Documentation and Destruction of King Sennacherib’s Throne Room at Nineveh, Iraq (Yale, 1998)—describes the damage suffered at the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s “palace without rival.” Surprisingly, Russell expresses some sympathy for the looters. He would lift UN sanctions and send looted antiquities back to Iraq. He prefers that looted antiquities disappear rather than be “ransomed” by a collector. These are positions with which Archaeology Odyssey disagrees. We believe, however, that our readers should hear arguments other than our own. —Ed.

Hershel Shanks: You’ve become something of an expert on the looting of antiquities from war-torn Iraq, especially the looting of the great palace of Sennacherib. How did you get into this?

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