Saturday 24 April 2010

Iraq Museum Looting Remembered from Afar

Lawrence Rothfield discusses the systematic and well-organised looting at the Iraq National Museum in 2003 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Artworks Feature: “Looting Iraq's treasures”. Here Michael Gurr interviews Lawrence Rothfield author of The Rape of Mesopotamia on the looting of the Baghdad National Museum. The programme also contains some robust comment from Donald Rumsfeld. More than 15,000 artefacts vanished from the museum collections onto the black market, going to the dealers and buyers who are desperate to own some of the world's most ancient artefacts. And no-one, it seems, lifted a finger to stop it. Seven years on, while the Iraqis may well remember, around the world, the media has a short attention-span. This, combined with our own 'disaster fatigue', means that by now the sacking of the Baghdad Museum is pretty largely forgotten. Although the programme focussed on this, in fact looting on the archaeological sites scattered across the whole country in the aftermath of intervention aimed at destabilising the country and toppling its regime was arguably many times worse than what happened at the museum. It's estimated that perhaps 100,000 to 400,000 collectable artefacts have been ripped out of the ground, mostly between 2003 and 2006. To put that in context, the total holdings of the museum, which inventories everything excavated since 1924 until 2003 was only 170,000 items.

You can listen to the programme [here].

There is an interesting comment on the evacuation of the Kuwait Museum by the Iraqis in the face of the US-led invasion of Kuweit in 1991.

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