The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Twenty-Nine: First 1/2 of June 2004





This is the twenty-ninth archive of the reviewed articles of The Iraq War & Archaeology web site.


Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D.




The articles and other information are listed chronologically, most recent first.
Almost all are accessible for free (or after a free registration) on the internet.  Each time, I try to draw attention to the most relevant tidbits of information, esp. things that were not mentioned before; occasionally, I provide some comment.  The usual warning applies: many links become defective with time.  Inclusion in the list does not in any way mean that I necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in an article.  But for a few exceptions, the occasional photos and figures accompanying reviewed articles are just hotlinked images on other web sites, in other words: do not download them or request permission to publish them from me, for I do not own the copyright to them in any way!  Please do contact the rightful owners if you would like to use them for publication purposes. Finally, for the sake of convenience, all articles and so on are assumed to have been published on US web sites unless indicated otherwise.

  • S. Komarow, "Sting operation halts illegal sales of ancient artifacts," in USA Today, June 13, 2004: "The police then posed as buyers and tape-recorded the transaction with hidden microphones." "For historians, the most significant part of the find might be the several hundred small tablets embossed [sic] with writing that appears to be public records of an ancient community." [8-31-04: see also Yahoo! News August 16, 2004]

Photo: "A sting operation has helped Iraqi authorities recover hundreds of artifacts dating back to biblical times.  By Steven Komarow, USA Today"


Photo: "Foto: Frederico Gambarini (dpa/dpaweb) - Ein Soldat in den Ruinen von Babylon." [a [US] soldier in the ruins of Babylon]

[too little is known yet to go into details but I'd like to remark that no matter what exactly happened it was obviously serious enough to draw the attention of the top US occupation leadership and make them acknowledge it publicly; it's the least they could do considering all the promises made in the aftermath of the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad last year: after all, this site has been under their control from the beginning; also, when the sorry state of protection against looting of the archaeological sites in Iraq was brought up again and again, the Coalition military always pointed at Babylon as being safe because it was within their military base: quite ironic, isn't it?  furthermore, this again puts the spotlight on the dubious role of the anonymous Polish archaeologists in Babylon (but see now Krzemińska mid-April]
  • "Interpol and the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property stolen in Iraq," in Interpol, online, [June 8, 2004]: "The Interpol General Secretariat in co-operation with the Jordanian Customs Department organized in Amman two meetings ... On 30 and 31 May 2004 the 2nd Meeting of the Interpol Tracking Task Force to Fight the Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property Stolen in Iraq (ITTF) took place; On 1 and 2 June 2004, the Regional Meeting to Fight the Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property was held enabling a wider participation of the countries of the region, UNESCO and ICOM." "The recommendations adopted during both meetings will be made available on this web site as soon as possible."

Photo: "The experts group of the ITTF visiting the secured premises where are kept the Iraqi cultural property items seized by the Jordanian customs administration."

  • "Interpol calls for cyber-tracking of stolen Iraqi antiquities," in Yahoo! News, online, June 2, 2004: "'We have recognised the trend for using the Internet for the sale of cultural property from Iraq ...,' [senior Interpol official] Karl Heinz Kind told reporters [in Amman] at the end of a two-day meeting on Iraqi treasures missing since the end of last year's war." "'The use of the Internet and investigating the Internet is more developed in the United States and Europe but we had some seizures in Dubai,' he said." [1st mention of the UAE in recovering Iraqi artifacts as far as I remember]; "... archeological sites all over the country have been looted and continue to be looted'." "On Tuesday [National Museum director Donny George] told AFP that plans were underway to set up a 1,300-strong 'antiquities police' to monitor those sites. Thousands of objects were looted from the Iraq Museum at the end of the US-led war in April 2003 and 15,000 antiquities are still missing. Hundreds have surfaced across the globe and were seized in Iraqi neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but also as far as Britain, Italy and the United States."

Photo: "Wed Jun  2, 2:51 PM ET  -  Picture taken in March 2004 shows a general view shows empty glass cabinets and a damaged statue still on the ground since the looting at a exhibition room of Iraq's national museum in Baghdad. A senior Interpol official urged members countries to monitor the Internet for sales of stolen Iraqi antiquities, saying cyber trafficking in illicit objects is on the rise. (AFP/File/Cris Bouroncle)"

650 glassware items in Newark, USA, involving the arrest of a dealer in London and the seizure of his assets) [see below], an inter-war case (seizure of a book stolen from the Mosul library in 1995 along with 465 other books, and the arrest of a Syrian suspect in London), and a case prior to 1990 (recovery of an Assyrian relief last seen in Iraq in 1976 from an Iranian national who had received it from a Jordanian citizen already known for handling stolen cultural goods). The cases showed the attraction of the London art market, but also the continuity and international links in the illicit traffic." "[An Italian delegate] described the linked seizures made in August 2003 in Sardinia and southern Italy of 86 cuneiform tablets and five other archaeological items from a Lebanese national who had received them from an Iranian dealer residing in London, and who had already come to notice for similar offences. The items originated from illegal digs in Iraq." "Dr Donny George ... Some days prior to the present conference, the Nasiriyah Museum had been attacked and the library completely burnt. The main suspects had previously assisted the Italian forces in safeguarding the sites and the museum, and then used their knowledge to perpetrate those criminal acts." "[The French Delegate] denied the reports repeatedly published in the media of the seizure in France of some 500 Iraqi antiquities." [the Iraqi Minister of Culture el-Jaza'iri himself has been spreading this rumor, e.g., H.Z. March 20, 2004]; "The US Homeland Security Service Delegate ... referred to the seizure in Newark in May 2003 of a Fedex shipment of more than 600 Iraqi artefacts, most of them being glassware items accompanied by false expert reports indicating that they were of British origin. Investigations, which were still ongoing, had made it possible to identify the shipper in the United Kingdom and the receiver in the USA." [see also above]; "[The US Homeland Security delegate] stressed that ... only very few seizures had been made from soldiers, with almost all the cases involving military items. He stressed the increasing number of sales of Iraqi antiquities on the Internet and described the particular efforts of a specific cybercrime unit to follow up suspicious offers. They include close co-operation with online auction houses in order to quickly obtain contact information and take advantage of specific investigation methods, including the use of an undercover service and acting as a potential buyer." "The UNESCO Representative explained the main principles of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which had been adopted by 103 States. She said that the provisions of the Convention had to be included in national legislation in order to become effective. ... She also presented the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, which had been adopted by 22 States and provided additional assistance, in particular for illegally excavated antiquities considered as stolen under the terms of the Convention. She stressed the need for adequate inventories and reported on UNESCO's support for their development in Iraqi museums. In this context, she promoted the use of the Object ID, an internationally recognized description standard for works of art. ... UNESCO had recently created the International Co-ordination Committee for the Safeguarding of the Iraqi Cultural Heritage, including scientific experts and representatives from professional institutions and international organizations (including ICOM and Interpol) to deal with the rehabilitation of buildings, the provision of equipment and training."

"As a result of co-operation between the W[orld] C[ustoms] O[rganization] and UNESCO, and with Interpol's assistance, a model export certificate was produced for cultural property which would harmonize the diversity of existing export certificates worldwide and facilitate customs controls and make it possible to detect false documents. The draft had meanwhile been endorsed by the Permanent Technical Committee of the WCO and the Executive Board of UNESCO, and the members of both Organizations would be requested to promote the use of the certificate. ... Each cultural object leaving Iraq should be accompanied by a certificate attesting that the exportation was legal. In the absence of the certificate, the exportation is to be considered as illicit." "[Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol General Secretariat] ... said that as a result of previous meetings (Interpol Tracking Task Force and Interpol Experts Group), a joint project had been set up with UNESCO to compile a list of experts (archaeologists), institutions and fact witnesses (site guards) [good idea!] to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to find suitable contacts." "Dr Donny George said that care should be taken when selecting experts because experience had shown that some experts had passed on their information to thieves and looters. He said that experts could be officially appointed by the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then be authorized to testify in court." "Mr Jouanny, General Secretariat, presented an initial analysis based on fewer than 20 cases so far received. He said that, even with a small number of cases, it was already possible to identify some common trends: Jordan's position as a typical transit country, the world's most important art markets as targeted destinations, the increasing use of Internet sales, and the involvement of suspects in different cases in different countries." "Mr Kind, General Secretariat, highlighted the need for the timely sharing of accurate, relevant information concerning investigations and seizures of Iraqi cultural property for crime analysis purposes. Frequently, information from the media about seizures could not be officially confirmed and no details were communicated about the routes used, borders crossed, countries transited, means of smuggling used, offenders involved, and their possible links to criminal networks. To remedy to that problem, the Interpol Tracking Task Force had produced a report form containing the requested details. The form had been distributed to its member countries." [I had hoped that at least inside organizations like Interpol they knew more than what I could find; this definitely needs urgent attention]; "Dr Donny George reported on three 3-days training courses organized in the Iraq Museum for customs officers from Baghdad and the airport. The courses included the legal instruments and the typology of Iraqi antiquities. It was intended to extend the courses to other customs officers in the country."


This site is edited by Belgian archaeologist Francis Deblauwe, Ph.D., living in Streamwood, Illinois (USA), who is affiliated with Archaeos, Inc., and a research associate of the University of Vienna (Austria).