The Iraq War & Archaeology
Reviewed Articles Archive Three: First 1/2 of May 2003

This is the third 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.

  • Photos: "Mon May 12, 6:52 AM ET -  U.S. Marine Corps Col. Matthew Bogdanos, left, leads Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi, partly hidden at right, on a tour of the national museum in Baghdad, Saturday, May 10, 2003. Bogdanos, an infantryman, scholar, amateur boxer and one-time waiter at his father's Greek restaurant, has found the case that draws on all his wide-ranging expertise - tracking down the looted treasures from Iraq ( news -web sites )'s national museum. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)" [Yahoo News Photos] [a Bogdanos fan web site can't be far off, can it now?  ;-)}   ]

  • Photo: "Hirayama calls for preservation of Iraqi cultural assets.  TOKYO, Japan - UNESCO goodwill ambassador Ikuo Hirayama (C), flanked by Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi (L) and culture minister Atsuko Toyama (R), meets reporters in Tokyo on May 12 [, 2003]. He appealed for the preservation of Iraqi cultural assets. (Kyodo)" [Kyodo News Photos]

  • E. Slater, "A Search for Thieves. The Calculated Nature of the Thefts from Iraq's National Museum Indeed Points to Experts," in Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2003: "The thieves worked at night, setting afire shreds of foam rubber to light their way through the blacked-out hallways and subterranean corridors of Iraq's National Museum. They passed though an 8-inch-thick steel door, broke down a wooden door beyond, descended a staircase, negotiated labyrinthine passages and, using heavy tools, smashed through a cinderblock wall to arrive at a little-known storage room. Then they made for the room's far northwest corner. The burglars left hundreds of antiquities in the room untouched, it appears, finding interest only in the contents of 90 plastic boxes buried beneath others. The containers held thousands of small, ancient amulets, pendants and engraved cylinders once used by rulers and scribes to mark parchments. With gunfire outside still raging, they fled with the small artifacts and have not been seen since." "Thousands of pieces, however, are missing. Although many of the thefts are being attributed to looters, some appear almost certainly to be the work either of insiders or experts." "Thieves and looters destroyed 17 display cases out of nearly 400 in the museum's main galleries, damaging at least 22 major items and stealing at least 38, ..." "The items missing by the thousands appear to be relatively less valuable, smaller pieces -- many of them not on display but kept locked in the basement of the facility. 'Every piece is priceless,' said Muayad Said Damerji, senior advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Culture. 'The collection was as important to the world as to Iraqis. Many other collections have large gaps, and so they compare what they find to what we have here." "Museum employees also secured thousands of other items in vaults in the museum's basement and locked facilities around the city. When electricity was restored at the museum this week, investigators were able to open those vaults and begin an inventory. Numerous other stashes have yet to be visited." "'To know what is missing we first have to know what was here," said Bogdonos, the head of the team, ... 'But we have to start somewhere, so for now we are assuming that the things employees say are safe in a vault are indeed there.'" "... more than 700 other pieces have been brought in. ... However, only about two dozen of the 700 pieces appear to be authentic, investigators say. [another important piece of info usually missed by the mass media] The rest are replicas from the museum or collectibles shops." "U.S. soldiers say they found rocket-propelled grenade caches on two museum rooftops, and at least two fighting positions inside buildings -- one of them in the adjacent Children's Museum. Kalashnikov rifle parts, a grenade, magazine carriers and other evidence suggest Iraqi soldiers fought from the buildings. A room in the Children's Museum shows signs of bloodstains and has a massive hole in one wall, after a U.S. tank returned fire. The other fighting position was pierced by a 25-millimeter shell, apparently from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle." [more detail about the attackers from inside the Museum building!]; "As suspicion grows that museum workers either carried out some of the thefts or helped plan them, museum officials have largely stopped granting interviews. The employees and officials 'are getting nervous,' said one investigator, adding that some had not seemed particularly helpful. [let's hope these ongoing insinuations can soon be resolved one way or another, that much we owe the museum staff] Investigators, meanwhile, are questioning people on the street, visiting shops and bazaars and imploring border guards to be on the lookout. At the same time, they are trying to work closely with the people who know the museum best -- the workers -- even as the evidence seems to point in their direction."

Photo 1: "Returned.  U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Roberto Pineiro holds up an artifact looted from and returned to Iraq’s national museum under an amnesty program. (Rick Loomis / LAT)"

Photo 2: "When the dust settles.  Investigators are trying to locate important items looted from Iraq’s National Museum and round up others that were taken for safekeeping after the invasion. (Rick Loomis / LAT)"
  • M. Sweet, "Babylon Saved," in United States Marine Corps, online, May 9, 2003: "'Crazy Saddam was very bad for us,' said [curator of the grounds] Taher as he guides his group to the site of the first asphalt road that dates to more than 4,000 years ago.  'He flooded this area and destroyed many artifacts.' He also points to the new construction around the ruins. 'Nobody builds on top of an archeological site,' said Taher while he shakes his head in discuss.  'Only Saddam, only Saddam.'"
Photo 1: "Marines and sailors with I Marine Expeditionary Force stand in front of one of the original Ishtar gate archways in Babylon, April 30. Iraqis are now giving tours through the ancient ruins of Babylon. Photo by: Sgt. L.A. Salinas"

Photo 2: "The curator of the ancient ruins of Babylon, Akmid, explains some of the interesting facts about the ancient city to Marines and sailors of I Marine Expeditionary Force, April 30. Babylon is the city where Alexander the Great died in and the area holds artifacts that date back to 600 B.C.  Photo by: Sgt. L.A. Salinas"

Photos: no captions [scenes of looted National Museum in Baghdad]

  • Photo: "A stone sentinel carved 3000 years ago still stands guard at Nimrud, near present day Mosul, Iraq. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi caretakers are ensuring the safety of the historical site.     U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luis Lazzara" [May 9, 2003] [US Department of State, International Information Programs]

Photo 1: magazine cover [unidentified online; Neo-Assyrian lamassu head, cut in pieces by looters in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War]

Photo 2: [unidentified online; likely an artifact from the National Museum, maybe a fragment of a stela?]

Photo: "Die Plünderung des irakischen Nationalmuseums hat weltweit für die größte Empörung gesorgt. Eine ganze Reihe geraubter Schätze ist jetzt wieder aufgetaucht.  Das ZDF nutzt Material von REUTERS und APTN." [The looting of the Iraqi National Museum caused the greatest indignation around the world.  A whole series of looted treasures have now resurfaced.  ZDF uses materials from Reuters and APTN]

  • J. Diderich, "U.S. and Interpol Vow to Hunt Stolen Iraqi Art," in, May 6, 2003: "U.S. Attorney General John  Ashcroft ... [:] 'Regardless of how sophisticated these criminals are, or  how hard they work to avoid detection, the U.S. law enforcement  and our colleagues at Interpol will not rest until the stolen  Iraqi artifacts are returned to their rightful place, the  public museums and libraries of Iraq.'" "Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble called for the  creation of an international police task force 'in the Iraqi  region.' He gave no further details, but said Interpol would  submit a complete proposal soon."
Photo: "Recently recovered artifacts are accounted for at the 'Iraq Museum' in Baghdad, May 4, 2003. Museum staff have confirmed 27 pieces are still missing after looters entered the premises in the early hours after the fall of Baghdad. The museum's collection included Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean and Abbasid artifacts.                          Photo by Petr Josek/Reuters"

  • K. MacMillan, "Questions Abound on Losses from Iraq Museum. Art Treasures Regarded Among Masterpieces of Mesopotamia," in The Denver Post, May 6, 2003: "What exactly was stolen? How significant was it? Can it be recovered? The story seems to change every day. Experts do agree on one thing: The losses at museums, libraries and other places were catastrophic even if smaller than first feared." "... at an international meeting of experts at the British Museum in London ... 'Regrettably, I think the real headline and the real status is, we still don't know a heck of a lot,' said Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles." "'Some of the very nice pieces,' [Francis Deblauwe] said, 'will probably go underground and will not be seen for years and years - probably go straight to very rich people with too much money and not enough scruples.'" "... a group of Near Eastern archaeologists are calling for at least a temporary worldwide moratorium on the sale of Mesopotamian antiquities as insurance against any Iraqi-owned works even being accidentally sold. But Robert Haber, a New York antiquities dealer who sells primarily to museums, said that such a moratorium would only make things worse, ensuring the trade would move underground without any of the checks that legitimate dealers can provide." "The international museum and conservation community is prepared to offer many kinds of help to Iraq, Whalen said, but it does not appear that experts will be able to gain access to the country's museums and libraries until September at the earliest. 'It's still very much under the control of the Department of Defense, and it's still very much a dangerous place,' he said. Once the situation in Iraq has been stabilized, he said, the Getty hopes to be able to work with Iraqi conservators, host training sessions for them in the United States or provide small grants to help certain institutions recover." "Even in the cases where good documentation does exist, nothing can substitute for the real thing, especially as technology and archaeologists' understanding of objects continue to evolve. Scientists are now able, for example, to return to ancient pots in museums and do analyses of what was cooked in them, something that was impossible even a few decades ago, Cohon of the Nelson-Atkins Museum said."

Photo: "Getty Images /Mario Tama  -   This sculpted head and other less important antiquities stolen from National Museum of Iraq have been recently recovered."
  • Photo: "Newly recoverd [sic] artifacts are seen at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad - May 6 [, 2003]. Objects from some of history's earliest civilizations - stolen after the fall of Saddam Hussein - are now being returned.  ©AP/Wide World Photo/Murad Sezer" [US Department of State, International Information Programs]

"Quotes from Witnesses of the Looting of the Iraq Museum  -  Ferid Hagi (businessman) : Who looted it? The ones who entered first – the Americans! Husan Ibrahim (neighbouring resident) : They broke into the museum, officially to look for guerillas. Then they told the looters: come on in! Waidi Sami (guard of a neighboring mosque) : The Americans drove up and removed objects from the museum. Husan Ibrahim  : On the first day, when the Americans came, there was a tank right next to the museum. The building was still completely intact, and five Iraqis stood guard in the yard. Yes, they were Iraqis. I went with the guards to the U.S. tank and asked the soldiers to protect the museum. They said 'OK!' (But the tank was withdrawn, and the guards were left alone in their trench) Waidi Sami  : The Americans came back at 4:30 the next morning, and an officer ordered his troops to advance into the museum. Kuwaitis were there with the American troops...They took archaeological artefacts out of the museum and loaded them onto seven trucks of the U.S. military. The whole convoy drove away accompanied by armored cars. Husan Ibrahim  : A jeep showed up later with five Americans. They claimed that Saddam’s Fedayin had hidden themselves in the museum. They broke open the side-door and stayed inside for a while. Then they shouted to the people gathering outside, 'Come in!' That’s how the looting began. Ferid Hagi  : The Americans had everything here under control, and whatever they want, they let disappear. Then they let the looters in to cover up their own theft. Now they want to blame the whole thing on the mob...The Americans were the first ones in the museum, and knew exactly what the real treasures were. The primitive looters just took the junk. But God in heaven saw it, and some day we’ll all have to stand before him." [this provides the most detail on the allegation that US military hauled off some Museum artifacts before the looters came]
Photo 1: "devastated library of the Department of Archaeology"

Photo 2: "Meanwhile the whole area is full of non-authorized digs" at Isin

Photo 3: "Up to 10 m deep digs were cut by shovel dredgers" at Isin

Photo 4: "non-authorized digs with tunnels branching off" at Isin

Photo: "Antike Statue. Eine antike Statue im Irakischen Nationalmuseum in Bagdad. (Foto: dpa)"

  • Photo: "Sun May  4, 8:08 AM ET -  U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant Roberto Pineiro of San Juan, Puerto Rico, checks an ancient parchment as recently recovered artifacts are accounted for at the 'Iraq ( news -web sites ) Museum' in Baghdad, May 4, 2005. Museum staff have confirmed 27 pieces [that's only from the public galleries, remember!] are still missing after looters entered the premises in the early hours after the fall of Baghdad. The museum's collection included Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean and Abbasid artifacts.      REUTERS/Petr Josek" [Yahoo! News Photos]

  • M. Kramer, "Indiana Jones or Inside Job at Iraq Museum?," in Sandstorm, online, May 2, 2003: "... he seems to have been less the Indiana Jones of Iraqi archaeology, and more its Tariq Aziz. He was the urbane handler of the foreign archaeologists, with one overarching purpose: turning them into an anti-embargo lobby among the well-heeled. To judge from the sanctions-busting by many foreign archaeologists [link to an article by H. Dellios in 2001, which reports on an international archaeological conference in Baghdad: sure, some propagandistic benefits for the regime but hardly  hard-core sanctions-busting] he did a pretty good job. He certainly enjoyed the confidence of Saddam Hussein. Two years ago, Dr. George boasted to a foreign journalist that Saddam not only read his reports, but returned them with careful notes in the margins." [he probably was just awed and scared to death by this much attention from the ruthless dictator, not necessarily a die-hard Ba'ath enforcer]; "In September 1990, within weeks of Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, the staff of the Iraq Museum turned up in Kuwait, loaded the contents of Kuwait's National Museum into open lorries (their methods were "anything but professional," notes the collection's patron)[the Norman 2000 article puts the blame mostly on the time pressure put on the Baghdad Museum people by Iraqi military authorities], and hauled them across the desert to the basement of their own museum." "Most of the plunder was returned to the Kuwaitis—after Iraq's defeat and a U.N. resolution. But some of the collection was damaged, and 59 prime objects 'disappeared,' including a few spectacular emeralds—just the sort of thing a Baath higher-up would want in his pocket. Wouldn't you like to hear more about that earlier Baath heist from Dr. George, before feeling "truly humbled" in his presence?" [Dr. George does need to be asked about the circumstances surrounding the Kuwait National Museum artifacts; the "prime objects" most likely were appropriated by Iraqi big shots before they had a chance to arrive in the National Museum in Baghdad]; "... Dr. George would have shown you the head of a winged bull statue, ... [which] had been stolen and cut up by a gang of smugglers. ... ten of them were executed." [police state methods, plain and simple]; "'I know how Saddam Hussein cared for antiquities,' he said in dismissing the possibility of an inside job. How fortunate for Dr. George, his staff, and all his old superiors! How could anyone believe any of them would be involved?" [I have a hard time swallowing Saddam Hussein's love for antiquities too; again, it cannot be excluded that someone in the Ba'ath party or even the Department of Antiquities took advantage of the situation]; "... it may yet turn out that these [Western] archaeologists fell for a fabulous exaggeration, propagated largely by the Baath's apparatchiks at the Iraq Museum. But since we don't know yet, let's have the mother of all criminal investigations, to find out exactly what happened. No one should be above suspicion ..."

Photo 1: "Donny George at the British Museum"

Photo 2: "George explains: ten executed for stealing this"

  • M. Bailey, "Call to Seal Iraqi Borders to End Smuggling of Looted Antiquities. A First-Hand Description of the Looting of Iraq National Museum," in The Art Newspaper (UK), [May 2, 2003]: "Dr George had earlier in the day received an emotional welcome at a private session of the meeting of international experts on Iraq [in London, April 29]. For the past few weeks, he has repeatedly risked his own personal security to protect the National Museum and its collection. Even the trip to London was hazardous. He and British Museum keeper Dr John Curtis, who had gone out to Iraq, were robbed at gunpoint on the long overland journey from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. The first-hand description of events in Baghdad shocked the international experts. Dr George described how staff had been forced to abandon the museum in the morning of 8 April, when members of Saddam Hussein’s militia 'came into our garden and began firing on American tanks.' [this confirms that the fedayyeen entered the Museum grounds but not the buildings] Three hours later Dr George and his colleagues attempted to return, but were forced back by fighting. Small numbers of staff later came back, but they were unable to prevent the first looters from entering the museum on 10 April." "... only around 100 objects had been left in the public galleries, items which were too heavy or fragile to move. The majority of these were looted, including many extremely important objects." "Other stone statues which proved too difficult to remove were damaged, but some large stone reliefs escaped relatively unscathed. The situation inside the vault is more difficult to assess, since the area has not been officially entered by museum staff. But, by peering through the hole broken into the brick wall [with which staff had tried to secure the vault], Dr George and Dr Curtis were able to see that in the first section, pots and other objects had been swept off shelves and abandoned on the floor. The extent of the losses remain unknown, but the hope is that in the darkened basement the looters would have found it difficult to locate the items of major financial value. Dr George believes that only a small proportion of the 170,000 objects in the vaults may have been looted, although this will only be confirmed after months of checking. The National Museum’s most valuable objects are now thought to be safe in the vaults of the central bank." "Although the ground floor of the bank was looted, rubble from US bombing or artillery fortuitously blocked the entrance to the vaults. This has not yet been cleared, but the expectation is that the museum’s most valuable objects are safe." "But Mr MacGregor and Dr Curtis constantly stress the importance of assisting Iraqi colleagues, rather than imposing western solutions. Funds are already available to send out specialists, but there are still concerns over whether Iraq is safe for civilian personnel. Sending equipment will also be difficult before the proper opening of Baghdad airport." "Another pressing priority is to assess damage to archaeological sites, and there is a strong feeling that this should be undertaken under the authority of Iraqi archaeologists."

  • J.M. Eisenberg, "Mesopotamia - Masterworks and Minor Works in the Iraq Musem [sic]," in Minerva, 14, 3 (May-June 2003): "... few items were missing from the main collection and very little from the 28 galleries (only two of which were open to the public)." [that only 2 were open to the public is an interesting tidbit]; "It is believed that the ‘Sippar Library’, ... is gone." [fortunately, this proved incorrect]; cross-sample of 303 artifacts from the Museum are illustrated with specifics, high-profile as well as lesser-known pieces
Photo: "294. Relief with female head in ‘window’. Kish/Tell Uhaimir. Sasanian  Empire, 5th century AD. Stucco, h. 34 cm, w. 34 cm. IM 11950. (T65-159)."

  • A. Riding, "Loss Estimates Are Cut on Iraqi Artifacts, But Questions Remain," in The New York Times, May 1, 2003: "Col. Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine reservist who is investigating the looting and is stationed at the museum, said he had been given a list by museum officials of 29 artifacts that were definitely missing. But since then, four items — ivory objects from the eighth century B.C. — had been traced. 'Twenty-five pieces is not the same as 170,000,' said Colonel Bogdanos, who in civilian life is an assistant Manhattan district attorney." "... officials now discount the first reports that the museum's entire collection of 170,000 objects had been lost." "Other objects were placed in the museum's own underground vaults; only when power was restored this week could curators begin assessing what was lost." "But some items that have been handed back to the museum are copies." "... Bogdanos said. 'I got six items today. They were all from the gift shop.'" "The difficulty in determining what is missing is compounded by the lack of a master list of the museum's collection. Although inventories survive, they were compiled department by department and not computerized. And in some cases, they are not complete." "Colonel Bogdanos said that some Iraqis returned looted objects to him, rather than to the museum itself, which was identified with Mr. Hussein. 'It has been a challenge to us that the Iraq museum is closely identified with both the prior regime and its Baathist Party,' he said." "One piece of good news is that 50,000 Islamic and Arab manuscripts, dating back 14 centuries, were saved from the Saddam House of Manuscripts. Osama Nassir al-Naqsa Bandy, the director-general of manuscripts in the Ministry of Culture, had his entire collection removed to a safe place one week before the war began in March. He also took 150 boxes of books and catalogs from the library of the National Museum for safekeeping. 'The House of Manuscripts was attacked by saboteurs who took all the installations and furniture but everything important was gone,' he said. 'The library of the museum was bricked up and it also escaped vandalism.'" "Information is also just trickling into Baghdad about the situation at the 32 excavation sites operated by the National Museum." "In five — Mosul, Kirkuk, Nadjaf, Baa-Kuba and Ashnuna — buildings linked to the sites were looted, but she had no detailed information of the extent of the theft of recently found objects."

Photo: "5,000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia"/Hirmer Verlag, Missing: a gold-plated head of a bull decorates a lyre from 2400 B.C."

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).