Biblical Archaeology Review 29:4, July/August 2003


Extent of Looting at Baghdad Museum Unclear

Only days after Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad fell to coalition forces in April, the world learned of the looting of Iraq’s National Museum, which housed thousands of priceless artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. Scholars immediately called for the recovery of the artifacts, with many denouncing American war planners for failing to safeguard the museum’s contents. Several international and governmental bodies—including UNESCO, Interpol and the FBI—have mobilized to track down the looted objects.

Initial reports suggested that most or all of the museum’s 170,000 pieces had been looted or destroyed. According to later reports, however, that figure is excessively high. On April 29 the British Museum, assisted by Donny George, director of the National Museum of Iraq, released a list of 26 items that have been confirmed as missing. Among them are the famous 5,000-year-old Warka Vase, a 3-foot-tall alabaster vase decorated with reliefs of plants, animals, people and a temple scene; and an intricately carved ivory of a lioness attacking a Nubian, dating to the ninth-eighth century B.C.

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