June 09, 2008


Iraqi heritage status update

At the UCLA/Getty Storage Symposium I was frequently asked about how the archaeological heritage of Iraq is faring these days. Also, today I am cleaning out my email inbox and came across some stuff I hadn't looked at yet. The Los Angeles Times published an excellent article back in January:
"BAGHDAD -- He works as a blacksmith in one of Baghdad's swarming Shiite slums. But at least once a month, Abu Saif tucks a pistol into his belt, hops into a minibus taxi and speeds south. His goal: to unearth ancient treasures from thousands of archaeological sites scattered across southern Iraq."
Read the whole article, it paints a pretty good picture of the situation. Also, the New York Times published a good article in February on the National Library in Baghdad and its courageous director Saad Eskander:
"Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive in Baghdad, finally had some time to catch up on his diary after a couple of very busy weeks. As he wrote in his latest entry, he was having trouble repairing the Internet system; the Restoration Laboratory 'was hit by 5 bullets;' and 'another librarian, who works at the Periodical Department, received a death threat. He has to leave his house and look for another one, as soon as he can; otherwise, he will be murdered.'"
Read it. Both articles were brought to my attention by the Iraqcrisis mailing list where many fine colleagues (esp. Chuck Jones) post the little information we are still able to obtain.

I would also like to thank SAFE - Saving Antiquities for Everyone for their continuing efforts. Recently, they again organized a Global Candlelight Vigil to remember the anniversary of the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad five years ago. One of the vigils was held at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ:

Finally, some good news. Syrian authorities seem to step up their efforts to intercept smuggling of ancient Iraqi artifacts (Report: Syrian customs officials seize 40 Iraqi stolen museum pieces from smugglers, in the International Herald Tribune, May 21, 2008):
"... the pieces were seized at al-Tanaf crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They were hidden in a bag in an Iraqi crossing into Syria. The artifacts include different-sized glassware and clay tools." "This is the third smuggling attempt aborted in less than two months by Syrian customs officials. Last month, the Syrian Cultural Ministry handed Iraq back some 700 pieces of looted priceless antiquities seized inside Syria."


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