Thursday, May 1, 2008

Iraq: "We want to strip the commercial value of Iraqi antiquities"

Yesterday I commented on Dr Bahaa Mayar's hope (expressed on the BBC) that the British Museum would one day return its Mesopotamian antiquities to Iraq.

Today The Independent (Arifa Akbar, "Iraqi expert accuses West over antiquities trade", May 1, 2008) provides further details of Dr Mayar's comments made at the British Museum (though the report misses his subsequent call for the return of antiquities). Some of the report repeats what was said in the BBC interview, and Dr Mayah "called for an immediate global ban on the sale of at least 100,000 artefacts that have been stolen since the invasion." He added:
This is a problem of illegal trade that should be of concern to the international community. We want to strip the commercial value of Iraqi antiquities.
There is also a comment from Professor Elizabeth Stone of Stony Brook University in New York who
said Iraq had been depleted of 15 per cent of its ancient artefacts. Ever since Baghdad's National Museum was ransacked in 2003, "entrepreneurs" had set up organised teams to plunder ancient grounds. She said neolithic sites had been heavily looted as had those which contained items from the first Mesopotamian Empire, about 2300BC. "It looks as if the looters know exactly what they are looking for," she said.

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