Are Iraq’s Antiquities in a Revolving Door?

A 4,400 year old statue of King Entemena looted and now returned

In a ceremony today 542 works of art and objects were returned from the United States to Iraq.  Among the items returned were:

[A] 4,400-year-old statue of King Entemena of Lagash looted from the National Museum . . . an even older pair of gold earrings from Nimrud stolen in the 1990’s and seized before being auctioned at Christie’s in New York last December; and 362 cuneiform clay tablets that had been smuggled out of Iraq before the invasion . . .  There was also a more recent relic: a chrome-plated AK-47 with a pearl grip and an engraving of Mr. Hussein, taken by an American solider as booty and displayed at Fort Lewis, in Washington.

Yet a senior Iraqi official admitted that 632 other pieces returned by U.S. forces have apparently gone missing.  They were supposed to have been shipped to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office via a flight authorized by Gen. Petraeus, Steven Lee Myers reports for the NYT that antiquities returned to Iraq are in a “revolving door”. Iraq’s ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaidaie told reporters ““We asked the US military to move it to Iraq. When the pieces arrived in Iraq, they were delivered to the office of the prime minister and now we are trying to find them”.  Perhaps the attention paid to these newly returned artifact will help to recover the previous shipment.  

  1. Steven Lee Myers, Iraq’s Looted Treasures in a Revolving Door, The New York Times, September 7, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/world/middleeast/08iraq.html?_r=1&hp (last visited Sep 7, 2010).
  2. The Associated Press: Hundreds of looted artifacts returned to Iraq, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hwK_CSpBxsNuVUEaDuOwmSSCiqGwD9I344LG2 (last visited Sep 7, 2010).
  3. Jane Arraf, 542 antiquities looted in Iraq war return home. Where are the rest?, Christian Science Monitor, , http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0907/542-antiquities-looted-in-Iraq-war-return-home.-Where-are-the-rest (last visited Sep 7, 2010).

Video from the NYT after the jump.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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