Monday, February 23, 2009

Iraq museum reopens

Yes, this IS interesting to me!

From the BBC:

Iraq museum reopens

The winged human-headed-bull is seen at Iraq National Museum on February 23, 2009

A winged, human-headed bull on display at Iraq's National Museum, which reopened on Monday 23 February. The museum closed in 2003 after it was looted in the wake of the US-led invasion.

There is a whole series of pictures at BBC online here.

Iraq's treasure trove national museum reopens

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The Iraq Museum reopened on Monday almost six years after its ancient treasures were looted in the chaotic aftermath of the US-led invasion.

With its polished marble floors, glass display cases filled with gold coins, pottery and jewellery, and freshly painted pale blue walls, the Baghdad museum is again home to a wealth of artefacts, some dating back thousands of years.

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Qahtan Abbas, before an audience of invited guests including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said about 6,000 items had so far been returned from inside Iraq, from its neighbours and around the world.

A total of 15,000 statues and other valuable artefacts were looted in the April 2003 ransacking of the institution long known as the National Museum that has been repeatedly forced by conflict to close its doors.

"We want to make our museum a place which will be at the forefront of international museums. There's a long road ahead of us. There are a lot of discoveries still being made at archaeological sites," said Maliki.

He called on archaeologists to help make Iraq "a mecca for research" into the history of mankind.

The inauguration itself was a red-carpet VIP media event, coming the morning after the Oscars in Hollywood, but with a Baghdad flavour: tight security and snipers posted on rooftops.

After the fall of Saddam's statue regime on April 9, 2003, well-equipped gangs of looters swarmed on the museum and countless historical sites around Iraq, which prides itself as the cradle of civilisation.

The Iraq Museum, which has stood at its present location since 1966, last year completed the renovation of its Islamic and Assyrian halls, thanks to a one-million-euro (1.1 million dollar) donation and technical help from Italy.

It is also displaying artefacts from the Sumerian and Babylonian eras, although only eight of its 26 halls have been opened in the initial phase. "Work in progress" signs stand outside the closed galleries.

The achaeological wealth of Iraq, historically known as Mesapotomia, shows some of the first evidence of complex urban life appearing within its borders around 3,000 BC.

Its refurbished halls are now home to a host of spectacular ancient treasures including a huge stone slab featuring the Assyrian god of water, Aya, large statues and frescoes.

Former museum director Donny George, who fled to New York, has accused the US occupation forces of "the crime of the century" for having stood by and watched the ransacking of the museum that went on for days.

Looters smashed numerous antiquities and beheaded statues such as that of Hatra, while more professional thieves selected valuable items for smuggling.

Apart from looting, rampant among public buildings after Saddam's fall, US tanks blasted a hole in the wall of the entrance to the museum, which generations of Iraqis know from school visits.

The museum is to be opened in a first phase to organised groups of schools, universities and tourists.

Almost 2,500 of the items returned have come from neighbouring Jordan, another 700 from Syria and more than 1,000 from the United States, the antiquities minister said.

Other objects were returned home from as far part as Peru and Sweden....

Mesopotamia treasures on display at the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad(source where you can read more)

I see this reopening as a great sign of progress for the Iraqis. I believe we all need an intimate knowledge of our past histories. Iraq would do well to ensure that her rich ancient history, which gave much to the world, is nurtured and guarded against future looters.

The looting and theft of Iraq's cultural icons was written about in the world media.

Awad Awad/AFP/Getty Images
Samples of the silver coins, necklaces, ancient Sumerian scrolls, ceramic pots and other artifacts were displayed for journalists during a brief ceremony at the Jordanian Antiquities Department in Amman.

Awad Awad/AFP/Getty Images

Stolen Iraqi Artifacts Returned

AMMAN, Jordan (AP)Jordan turned over Sunday nearly 2,500 stolen Iraqi artifacts to Iraq's top antiquities official, in the latest effort to recover the war-torn nation's stolen heritage.

In the chaos following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, looters snatched some 15,000 priceless artifacts and smuggled them out of the country. In the last few months, Jordanian authorities seized 2,466 items as they were being taken across the border.

Samples of the silver coins, necklaces, ancient Sumerian scrolls, ceramic pots and other artifacts were displayed for journalists during a brief ceremony at the Jordanian Antiquities Department in Amman.... (read the rest here)

The History Blog has been following the progress in Baghdad:

Iraqi National Museum to reopen this month

After the nightmare of post-invasion looting and with thousands of pieces still missing, Baghdad’s National Museum is scheduled to reopen by the end of February.

They’ve been renovating the space for months, and restoring the 5,000 recovered antiquities out of the 15,000 estimated to have been destroyed or stolen. Most importantly, they’re actively working to prevent anything like this happening again.

The museum and other archaeological sites will be protected by a newly formed Interior Ministry force called the “relics protection force,” Jibouri said in an interview.

The force will aim to prevent a repeat of the devastation of April 2003 when looters robbed the museum of some 15,000 priceless artefacts as part of a wave of theft from public buildings after Saddam Hussein’s regime fell...(read more here. And maybe bookmark this site!)

I hope one day to visit and see these priceless treasures for myself. In the meantime there are many archival sites on Iraq's amazing contributions to the world; far too many to share here, but here's just one:

Iraq Museum Database

No other museum can rival the collections of Mesopotamian artifacts in the Iraq Museum. Spanning a time from before 9,000 B.C. well into to the Islamic period, the Iraq Museum's collections includes some of the earliest tools man ever made, painted polychrome ceramics from the 6th millennium B.C., a relief-decorated cult vase from Uruk, famous gold treasures from the Royal Cemetery at Ur, Sumerian votive statues from Tell Asmar, Assyrian reliefs and bull figures from the Assyrian capitals of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, and Islamic pottery and coins--an unrivaled treasure not only for Iraq, but for all mankind.

In the days following the conquest of Baghdad by U.S. troops in April 2003, the Iraq Museum was looted; many pieces were stolen, others damaged or destroyed. Thanks to the foresight of the museum staff, the losses were less severe than than initially reported in the media, when a total loss of this collection was predicted. Even two years, however, a full damage assessment is still missing. A complete list of all losses can only be drawn up after a complete inventory of all remaining items has been complied, a lengthy and laborious procedure that obstructed by the fact that the museum's archive had been devastated during the looting. Some 15,000 items are now confirmed to be have been stolen. Several famous pieces, such as the Warka Vase and the Warka Head, were retrieved or returned to the museum, but many other important pieces, including the museum's collection of 4,800 cylinder seals, remains missing. Irrespective of numbers, these losses are tremendous not only to the world of archaeology but to mankind in general....

Recovered Objects: jewelry

necklaces, rings, jewelry etc.
Photographs taken by Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly in Iraq (2002 - 2004)(a whole series of recovered items here)
So much to read! And a fantastic omen for Iraq, as she reclaims her vast ancient past.


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