Thursday, 12 August 2010

The "Christies" Nimrud earrings back in Iraq


Azzaman reports ( Shaymaa Adel, 'Iraq retrieves the spectacular gold earrings of an ancient Assyrian queen of Nimrud', August 12, 2010) that some

fabulous gold earnings once worn by an Assyrian queen have been returned to the Iraq Museum, according to the Minister ofAntiquities and Tourism Qahtan al-Jibouri. [...] The treasure was discovered by a team of Iraqi archaeologists headed by Muzahem Hussein in 1988.
The items were spotted by the former director of the Iraq Museum, Donny George, who was convinced that the Neo-Assyrian gold earrings on sale as Lot 215 in an auction of ancient art and antiquities to be held at Christie's in New York in December 2004 came from the excavation of Nimrud which he personally witnessed.

Christie’s claims in the catalogue that they are “similar” to a pair found at Nimrud, but that the previous owner acquired them in 1969, a convenient date indeed given that the UNESCO convention on illegal antiquities — the standard cutoff for questionably-sourced artifacts — was enacted in 1970. Donny George knows of no “similar” finds outside of the Nimrud pieces. That’s what made them so special: the quality was astonishing and entirely unique.
Christies eventually withdrew the items just a few days before the bidding was to have started. If the Azzaman article is correct that they have only just now, nearly six years later, returned to the museum, one might wonder where they have been since then. Did the people who had consigned them put up a fight which is what took so long? Who were they and what happened to them?

Of course this is not good news for the no-questions-asked dealers' lobby who have so many times claimed that absolutely "none" of the items that were looted from archaeological sites in Iraq (the reality of which they too questioned) from the 1990s onward and then the museum and other collections in 2003 (the facts of which they also disputed), ended up on sale in the USA. Well, Donny George spotted these pieces, and it may not be just a coincidence that on the same day as the return of these objects was announced we see another attempt by the same dealers' lobbyists to discredit Dr George in the form of a slime attack by Washington cultural property law lawyer Peter Tompa on the basis of unchecked second-hand information.

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