And Cruikshank was present when, for the first time, US personnel along with Iraqi museum staff broke into the storerooms. It remains unclear whether some of the museum's priceless gold, silver and copper antiquities, some of its ancient stone and ceramics and perhaps some of its fabled bronzes and gold-overlaid ivory, had been locked away for safekeeping elsewhere before the looting, or seized for private display in one of Mr. Hussein's myriad palaces. Not the least important discovery was that familiar Bible stories such as Noah and the Flood had their origin in Mesopotamia long before the Bible was written. But despite all the effort and money lavished on it by foreign governments, the museum remains closed to all but the most senior VIPs in an attempt to protect it. For this reason the sack of Baghdad marks a significant point on the trajectory of the Bush administration as it attempts to plunge the world into a new barbarism that would outstrip anything that history can show from the past. As the cuneiform writing of thousands of clay tablets was deciphered, it was realised that numerous complex and highly developed civilisations had existed in Mesopotamia of an antiquity never before guessed. The round hole made by an artillery shell was visible long before we pulled up next to the National Museum in Baghdad in early May of 2003. Astronomy was highly developed and if it was understood in terms of omens and prophecy, its predictions of eclipses and the movement of the planets were nonetheless accurate.[3]. All the looting at Baghdad's Iraq Museum had taken place by the time U.S. troops—engaged in toppling Saddam Hussein—arrived to protect it, on April 16, 2003. Hamdani will be returning to his home country this summer to continue his research. Among those present were Arthur Houghton, the former curator of the Getty Museum at Malibu in California, which is notorious for displaying works of suspicious provenance. From 3000 BC there is some evidence of social stratification and the emergence of a political elite or ruling class in the “royal burials” of Ur, but some archaeologists dispute this characterisation of those burials. Michael Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia, Equinox books, 1990, International Committee of the Fourth International. Had the National Museum of Iraq been looted by poor slum dwellers it would have been crime enough, and the responsibility would have rested with the American administration that refused, despite repeated warnings, to provide for the security of Baghdad’s cultural buildings. The Assyrians were to dominate Mesopotamia again, and the whole region from the Gulf to the Mediterranean in the ninth century BC. Back in Baghdad there was anger. "I hold the American troops responsible for what happened to this museum.". “If you want to think about unity, then the ancient past is a broadly shared culture,” says Elizabeth Stone, a SUNY Stony Brook archaeologist who spent years excavating in Iraq. "Someone asked us what is the number of pieces in the whole collection. What that concern means is evident from the remarks of William Pearlstein, the group’s treasurer, who also describes Iraqi laws on antiquities as “retentionist”. More ominously, a new generation of Iraqis has grown up without any access to the impressive network of museums across the country that were once crowded with schoolchildren. The puncture, just below a frieze of a king in a chariot, was in the replica of a Babylon gate next to the exhibit halls. The fear is that throwing the museum’s doors open to the public exposes the collection and the newly-restored building to risk from another attack. On April 10 2003, the first looters broke into the National Museum of Iraq. The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. The surplus produced by irrigation allowed the first urban civilisation on the planet to emerge in the very region that the combined military forces of the US and the UK are reducing to a wasteland. Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, director of the McDonald Institute at Cambridge, told a press conference at the report’s launch that the trade continued because “The government is in the pocket of the art market, which wants to keep the flow of antiquities.” He added, “It’s a scandal.”. But by allowing the museum of Baghdad to be looted, the US authorities have shown they have no regard for the real importance of Iraq to human history. //-->. All excavations carried out in Iraq by international teams of archaeologists were reported to it. It is true that, now, foreign archaeologists are working in the northern part of Iraq called Kurdistan. Had museum officials not hidden 8,366 of the most valuable artifacts in a safe place known only to them, this event might have been a catastrophe for cultural heritage in Iraq. But no promises were made, and fortunately, the U.S. forces did not bomb the site, despite them bombing a number of uninhabited Iraqi archaeological sites. In the display area, angry mobs had shattered the cases and smashed 2,000-year-old statues. It isn't true. 2020 Archaeology Magazine, a Publication of the Archaeological Institute of America. There are also gold and silver helmets and cups from the Ur cemetery. No one in the U.S. military was criticized, demoted, or court-martialed. Other texts show volumes and areas, linear and quadratic equations. New elections later this month could bring greater political stability to the country. "As soon as I saw the American troops near the museum, I asked them to protect it but the second day looters came and robbed or destroyed all the antiquities," he said. Liwaa Semeism, the tourism minister overseeing the State Board of Antiquities, is a member of a splinter Shiite party. Over two millennia these Mesopotamian cities developed the art of copper smelting, alloying bronze and, most importantly, writing. Mr. Muhammad said that he had found an American Abrams tank in Museum Square, about 300 yards away, and that five marines had followed him back into the museum and opened fire above the looters' heads. One of the most elementary lessons of that learning process was that context is everything in archaeology. ''If a country's civilization is looted, as ours has been here, its history ends. The development of public museums went hand in hand with the development of a scientific understanding of archaeological artifacts and the societies that produced them. Cruikshank had been to the museum in Baghdad, had inspected the collection, the storerooms, the outbuildings, and had interviewed people who had been present around the time of the looting, including George and some US troops. Science and mathematics flourished. The prescription for the market to determine possession of and access to works of art and archaeological material would place these artifacts in the hands of a rich minority and make public access to them depend on the good will of their wealthy owners. Mr. Muhammad spoke with deep bitterness toward the Americans, as have many Iraqis who have watched looting that began with attacks on government agencies and the palaces and villas of Mr. Hussein, his family and his inner circle broaden into a tidal wave of looting that struck just about every government institution, even ministries dealing with issues like higher education, trade and agriculture, and hospitals. Since the last Gulf War in 1991 Iraqi antiquities have flooded onto the market from the museums that were looted then and from archaeological sites that have been attacked with bulldozers. The crowd was storming out of the complex carrying antiquities on hand carts, bicycles and wheelbarrows and in boxes. The looters broke into rooms that were built like bank vaults with huge steel doors. Looting at archaeological sites has decreased. Most of the museum’s estimated 170,000 artifacts were eventually found to be safe. It most outstanding ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the double walls of the city, the great ziggurat and the processional way. It threatens to turn the clock back more than 150 years to the period before scientific archaeology in Mesopotamia. It is worth noting that there were no follow-up congressional hearings or independent investigations to pinpoint the parties responsible for the negligence connected to the museum debacle. In the process they connived in the burning of books—another Nazi practice. Nothing remained, museum officials said, at least nothing of real value, from a museum that had been regarded by archaeologists and other specialists as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East. “There is still nothing protecting many sites from looting and destruction.”. Among the missing pieces were thousands of tiny cylinder seals, as well as several iconic artifacts such as the Lady of Warka, a stone head of a woman found at Uruk, which is considered the world’s oldest city. Their exhibits aimed to display the material artifacts of the past in a rational and scientific manner. Writing enabled a dramatic intellectual development to take place. Half an hour later, there wasn’t an American at the scene and the flames were shooting 200 feet into the air.”. A Marine, who blamed Iraqis for using the site as a base to fight the Americans, wrote the only formal report on the matter.