Iraq Museum looting
May 5, 2003 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Oh never mind.... The vast majority of antiquities feared stolen or broken have been found inside the National Museum in Baghdad, according to American investigators who compiled an inventory over the weekend of the ransacked galleries. A total of 38 pieces, not tens of thousands, are now believed to be missing, according the Chicago Tribune. Can this be true? Registration required.
posted by Durwood (27 comments total)

 
Can this be true?

Yes, it can. You don't have to end every thread with a question, you know. :)
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:23 PM on May 5, 2003


That's fantastic! I mean, if, as the article states, the thieves had prior knowledge of the layout of the museum and stole some of the most valuable pieces, it still sucks. But it's a lot better than we'd thought, in that case. Yay! Good news!
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:38 PM on May 5, 2003


non-registration-be-wantin' link
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:39 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm pretty keen on believing this story, but it does seem that people who are actually museum experts have a different story. But, they don't work for the US Army, so what do they know about cataloguing and tracking antiquities?

I for one hope that 38 is close to the right number. For what it's worth, it seems that 38 is the number of specific artifacts mentioned on a list given to Interpol, not necessarilly a comprehensive lineup of everything missing. Nonetheless, they've got quite a task ahead of them.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:55 PM on May 5, 2003


yeah. sure...its all there. just like that uranium that saddam bought from niger. or the nuclear weapons program that cited by the leader of the (formerly known as) free world "I don't know what more evidence we need"
posted by specialk420 at 7:56 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm sorry I must be missing something, my conspiracy theorist friends. How on earth would you fake something like this? Have the GIs hired an expert sculptor to recreate ancient Babylonian artifacts?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:03 PM on May 5, 2003


Nimrud Gold treasures “safe”

TAN: Outsiders were shocked that the museum appeared to have been vandalised. Were objects deliberately smashed?

DG: My theory is that there were two groups of people. Those who first entered the museum knew what they wanted and they took some very important material. We found glass cutters they had left and they did not touch gypsum replicas. The vandalism came later, but perhaps it was planned to cover up the initial looting. They smashed a lot of material. We had some very important Roman statues from Hatra - they were smashed and the heads taken away.


From The 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology

Quote from there: it seems to me the media pendulum is swinging way too far to the other side now

Now, this story, dated the same day quotes the same Major Bogdanos:

Experts Despair of Iraq's Stopping Loss of Relics (NYT)

The immediate focus is on trying to recover what was stolen from the museum, but in the rare roadblocks still operated by American and British troops here, the search is for weapons, not for antiquities. The only success to date came when a unit of the Iraq National Congress stopped a truck and found a steel case containing 453 small objects taken from the museum.

Among Iraq's neighbors, only the customs authorities in Jordan, traditionally the first destination of looted Mesopotamian art objects, have displayed fresh vigilance for possible smuggled antiquities. The National Museum, which remains in a state of disorder and disorganization, has in turn been slow to draw up a detailed list of looted treasures, partly because it lacks a computerized inventory.

"We can't control anything until we know what's missing," said Col. Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine reservist who is investigating the looting and is stationed at the museum. "Only when we get a photo and a description can we disseminate the information to the international law enforcement community, also to the art community, auction houses and dealers."

So far, the museum has provided Colonel Bogdanos with a provisional list of 25 missing objects, although many more are presumed to have disappeared.


Two conflicting stories quoting the same source.
posted by y2karl at 8:06 PM on May 5, 2003


From the Chicago Tribune: A total of 38 pieces, not tens of thousands, are now believed to be missing.

From the New York Times: The only success to date came when a unit of the Iraq National Congress stopped a truck and found a steel case containing 453 small objects taken from the museum.

So, only 38 pieces are missing and the army recovers a steel case with 453 small objects taken from the museum? This is screwy.
posted by y2karl at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2003


How about (puts pinky finger to corner of mouth) ONE BILLION DOLLARS?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:29 PM on May 5, 2003


Looks like people will go to any length to make America look bad. You see: there are assholes on and off Metafilter.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:03 PM on May 5, 2003


Looks like people will go to any length to make America look bad. You see: there are assholes on and off Metafilter.

Is there something that inspired that wisdom, or do you just have a program that randomly inserts astroturf into the occasional thread?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:07 PM on May 5, 2003


Meanwhile, we still don't know if any nuclear materials were looted from the nuclear facilities.
posted by homunculus at 9:37 PM on May 5, 2003


Looks like people will go to any length to make America look bad

Are any of those people germane to this thread? Were you the type to pull a girl's hair if you "liked" her?

So, only 38 pieces are missing and the army recovers a steel case with 453 small objects taken from the museum? This is screwy.

Yeah. Also, this guy Bogdanos was real busy yesterday. It seems that he was both in the field tracking down lost items, analyzing the damage to the museum, and communicating with experts in archeology and art history. You should learn from that guy, Paris. If you applied his work ethic to your daily practice of hating on those who engage in critical thought, you could easilly have killed us all by now.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:53 PM on May 5, 2003


Are any of those people germane to this thread?

Sure. They're the ones who blamed the U.S. soldiers for the Iraqi looting of "tens of thousands" of priceless cultural artifacts from the cradle of civilization. Remember?
posted by hama7 at 10:04 PM on May 5, 2003


Turns out the New York TImes carried this on May 1st:

Loss Estimates Are Cut on Iraqi Artifacts, but Questions Remain.

Martin Kramer on his weblog Sandstorm has another view on Donny George, the research director of the Baghdad Museum: Indiana Jones or Inside Job at Iraq Museum? :

If the report in the New York Times this morning is anything to go on, it may yet turn out that these 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—especially the people who knew where to find the best lots, who had the keys, and who had long-standing ties with the criminals who ran the regime. Quite a few people fit that description. None of them is a U.S. Marine.

Again from the Tribune story: The inventory, compiled by a military and civilian team headed by Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos, refutes reports that Iraq's renowned treasures of civilization — as many as 170,000 individual artifacts — had been scattered or lost during the U.S.-led war against Iraq. It also raises questions about why any of the artifacts went missing.

And this from the New York Times story above:

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.
posted by y2karl at 10:11 PM on May 5, 2003


Sure. They're the ones who blamed the U.S. soldiers for the Iraqi looting of "tens of thousands" of priceless cultural artifacts from the cradle of civilization. Remember?

Guess I'm out of that one, whew! No one that I know claims that soldiers should make their own orders. I still blame the leadership for not responding to numerous documented pleas for protection.

OK, hama7, would it be anti-american of me to ask that you try to account for the huge differences between these accounts, all of which came out on the same day and cite the same person? If that is not at least curious to you, then your faculties are on auto-pilot.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:13 PM on May 5, 2003


They're the ones who blamed the U.S. soldiers for the Iraqi looting of "tens of thousands" of priceless cultural artifacts from the cradle of civilization.

No, they blamed the Pentagon--not the soldiers--for not thinking ahead and doing nothing to protect either the museum or the nuclear facility. And from the story about the leaked memo, even General Garner was upset about the Museum not being protected. People kept bringing up how unfair it was to blame the soldiers--like they had to make the call when it wasn't their responsibility in the first place--when it was their superiors back in Washington who were the people being blamed. The last I heard, soldiers follow orders. If they didn't get orders, it's not their fault nothing was done. And that fact hasn't changed: nothing was done to protect the museum or the nuclear facility.
posted by y2karl at 10:20 PM on May 5, 2003


The shop-keeper's assistant is in charge of locking up the store at night and making sure everything is secure before he leaves. One Friday night, at the end of the business day, the assistant is eager to leave b/c he has a highly anticipated date; in his preoccupied state he forgets to lock the front door.

Two scenarios:

a)On Monday the boss arrives at six A.M. to find that his entire store has been robbed. Everything of value has been taken.

b)On Monday the boss arrives at six A.M. to discover an unlocked door, but (thankfully) nothing has been taken.

Is the shop-keeper's assistant somehow less negligent in scenario B?
posted by dgaicun at 10:31 PM on May 5, 2003


Is Baghdad Bob writing press releases for the US Army now? ;-P
posted by mischief at 11:15 PM on May 5, 2003


Nice and simple solution... the 38 missing pieces take into account the 400+ ones that they just found? 38 remain outstanding?

dgaicun, the assistant is more negligent in B. If you're going to leave the door open at least take something of value for yourself and then whoever robs the place gets the blame. ;)
posted by twine42 at 3:37 AM on May 6, 2003


The 2003 Iraq War & Archaeology translation of the gist of the following:

in Der Standard (Austria), May 3, 2003: Dr. Walter Sommerfeld went to Baghdad: more than 100,000 out of 180,000 artifacts lost due to looting; everything in the public galleries except the big Neo-Assyrian reliefs and sculptures was stolen or looted

Babelfish translation of Irakisches Nationalmuseum verlor Hälfte des Gesamtbestandes
(derStandard.at - Austra) :

National Museum Lost Half Of Total Stocks
"These people knew, what it was genuine or", an expert does not mean

Berlin/Bagdad - which Iraqi national museum in Bagdad has according to data of the Altorientalisten walter Sommerfeld during the plunderings of approximately 100,000 exhibits lost. This corresponds more than half of total stocks of approximately 180,000 exhibits, said the university professor of the "citizens of Berlin to newspaper". Sommerfeld leads Institut for Orientalistik at the Marburger university and is at present in Bagdad, in order to help the museum with the stocktaking, as the sheet reports.

Up to the assyrischen reliefs...

Up to the assyrischen reliefs, which were too largely and too surely fastened, everything was smashed far away from the showrooms or. Against earlier messages however the stock books remained received, said Sommerfeld. So can at least be determined now, what is missing. The museum possesses for example approximately 80,000 cuneiform script texts from three millenia, the information gives over culture and everyday life of the Sumerer, Babylonier and Assyrer. "those are Unikate. If those away are, is also these information away and to never recover ", the professor said.

Expert theft

It gives indications that "adept groups would have purposefully course-been enough". Because famous monuments, which were received in the museum only in reproduction, were left at the place. "these people knew, what it was genuine or", Sommerfeld did not say. The most precious pieces like the gold treasure of Nimrod or devices of assyrischen kings from the first millenium before Christ were stored in the Iraqi central bank, whose main safe deposit could not be cracked by the Pluenderern. (APA/dpa)

posted by y2karl at 7:46 AM on May 6, 2003


From Marines accuse Baghdad museum of hampering hunt for treasures (Guardian, May 6):

Colonel Matthew Bogdanus, who commands the taskforce conducting the search, said the officals had yet to provide an inventory of the museum's possessions. Without that it was impossible to establish how much had been stolen.

...He had an inventory but he stressed that it had not been provided by the museum staff: it was thought Germany may have made it available.

Not only had the museum failed to provide him with its inventory, it had not let him into the vaults where some of the most valuable antiquities were kept.

"Before the war many items were removed from the museums and put in underground vaults in the Central Bank of Iraq. The vaults appear to be intact but no one has been able to tell us which vaults they are in, provide us with access, keys or combinations," he said.


Compare to Christine Polar, Chicago Tribune:

The vast majority of the Iraqi trove of antiquities feared stolen or broken have been found inside the National Museum in Baghdad, according to American investigators who compiled an inventory over the weekend of the ransacked galleries.

A total of 38 pieces, not tens of thousands, are now believed to be missing. Among them is a single display of Babylonian cuneiform tablets that accounts for nine missing items.

The single most valuable missing piece is the Vase of Warka, a white limestone bowl dating from 3000 B.C.

The inventory, compiled by a military and civilian team headed by Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos, refutes reports that Iraq's renowned treasures of civilization — as many as 170,000 individual artifacts — had been scattered or lost during the U.S.-led war against Iraq. It also raises questions about why any of the artifacts went missing.


Quite the discrepancy.
posted by y2karl at 7:55 AM on May 6, 2003


Denver Post - Questions abound on losses from Iraq museum

Tuesday, May 06, 2003 - While most aspects of the Iraqi war have stopped making headlines, the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad is gaining more international attention than any cultural tragedy in recent memory.

Questions abound. 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.

posted by y2karl at 8:01 AM on May 6, 2003


dgaicun, the assistant is more negligent in B. If you're going to leave the door open at least take something of value for yourself and then whoever robs the place gets the blame. ;)


How do we really know what the looters took?
posted by thomcatspike at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2003


...with the above scenario with Saddam. He did try to promote himself, not Iraq.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:04 AM on May 6, 2003


"Right now we are just operating on rumors and anecdotal evidence,"

Those words were spoken today, by Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:03 PM on May 6, 2003


According to the BBC in Nasiriya, US troops 'encouraged' Iraqi looters.
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2003


« Older Yes, we all HATE Carrot Top......  |  Has Prate is Aspired... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments