Stolen Artifacts from Iraq


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BAGHDAD (AFP) – Archaeological sites in southern Iraq have been systematically looted for over two years, but experts say the dig will have to go much deeper to find out where thousands of lost artifacts have ended up.

“The complete lack of knowledge is devastating,” says archaeologist Elizabeth Stone, who spent years excavating the Old Babylonian city of Mashkan Shapir.

“One article said that a billion Iraqi dinars worth of artifacts had been smuggled to Syria, but that’s absurd. We just don’t know what’s gone,” she says.

The mystery has emerged as new site protection forces finally begin to make a dent in thefts from the cradle of civilisation, rampant since the US-led invasion of March 2003, but experts say it may be years before the riddle is solved.

Meanwhile, artifacts are surprisingly absent from the ever-hungry illegal market. “Artifacts aren’t turning up yet,” says Seth Richardson of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “The market’s too hot. People don’t want to trade them, for good reasons and
bad.”
“We’ll probably have to wait four or five years for this stuff to turn up. And it could be anywhere — London, New York, Geneva, Tokyo.”

What is known is the shocking breadth of looting, with satellite images showing ancient sites turned into chessboards of square-shaped holes. “There’s been more dirt moved after the (2003) war by looters than there ever was by archaeologists and looters combined before the war,” says Stone.

On the ground, archaeologist Abdal Amir Hamdani, in charge of antiquities for Dhi Qar province, home to some of Iraq’s most famous archaeological sites, says his focus has shifted from looters to smugglers.

“I’m not an archaeologist. I’m a policeman,” he says.

Hamdani uses what he calls a “hunting dog” — a former looter turned paid informant — who follows up on rumours and goes out with a digital camera and global positioning system (GPS) equipment to locate and mark smugglers’ houses. Italian carabinieri forces disguised as Bedouin then go with Hamdani to carry out often fruitful raids. “This is the war within the war, the forgotten war,” he says of his dangerous job.

Last October, eight Iraqi customs officers were found dead and their recently seized cargo of antiquities disappeared on the road to Baghdad. Al-Fajir, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Hamdani’s base in Nassiriyah, is rife with smugglers and dealers, he says, and 60 suspect homes in the small town of 10,000 have already been identified.

Hamdani shows photos of seized artifacts: Parthian glasswork, Sumerian statues and erotic images on temple tablets, hundreds of coins, gold jewellery and bowls inscribed in ancient Aramaic, some clumsily glued together, damaged forever. “I don’t know how much they’re worth to a dealer,” says Hamdani. “To me, they’re priceless.”

He laments what he says are lax sentences of two or three years handed down to smugglers. “It’s not enough. They should be getting 10 years or more. I would like to kill them, but then what happens to human rights in this country?”

Stone says that families in the area have been selling artifacts for generations, but the lawlessness of recent years combined with increased demand from the West, Japan and Israel has made them more daring.

“You can see the purposefulness of it. People are very well-organised. They come with food and water and guns. That’s different from what Iraq has always had, farmers and villagers coming to take something to sell at the local souk.” “The assumption is that they won’t have to hold onto it for 100 years. But some families have been doing it for generations and might think their grandchildren will sell it. There must be warehouses bursting with the stuff,” she says.

“It will start coming onto the market when people decide authorities can’t be bothered to prosecute anymore.” While the director of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, Donny George, says that an object sold by a farmer in Baghdad for 50 dollars can fetch “200,000 to 300,000 dollars in New York,” the financial loss pales in comparison to the cultural one.

“The frightening thing is objects going to private collectors, where they are hidden, just for investment, like hoarding gold,” says George. He says ill-informed buyers in the West, such as the man who paid 80,000 dollars for a non-descript cylinder seal, are also inflating prices and inspiring more thieves.

“They’ve been taking out at least 3,000 tablets a week, by the truckload. That’s got to be 400-500 dissertations,” says Richardson, adding that some looters die when the tunnels they use collapse, becoming artifacts themselves. Iraq currently has 12,000 registered archaeological sites, but once the whole country has been surveyed, that number will jump to 100,000, says George.

Hamdani says there are 800 sites around Nassiriyah alone, with 200 site
protection forces to patrol them in just seven vehicles.
As a result, no amount of policing is going to suffice and the museum is
placing its hopes in changing people’s mindsets.
“Ninety percent of schoolbooks used to be dedicated to Saddam and the Baath
party. If we can dedicate five percent of books to antiquities, children can
learn a lot — and they can teach their parents.”

Meanwhile, generous foreign aid is well-intended, but not always useful. In the corner of George’s office is a box of 40 satellite phones donated for site protection forces by UNESCO. “We’ve had them for three months, but they didn’t give us SIM cards,” says George. “Now we have extra funding so we can buy the cards and use them.”

Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamia

Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia Egypt Israel / Palestine
3500-3100 BCE Uruk
3100-2900 BCE Jemdet-Nasr 3100-2686 Early Dynastic 3150-2200 Early Bronze
2900-2700 BCE Early Dynastic I
2700-2500 BCE Early Dynastic II
2500-2300 BCE Early Dynastic III 2686-2200 Old Kingdom
2300-2150 BCE Sardonic/Akkadian
2150-2100 BCE Guti 2200-2040 1st Intermediate
2100-2000 BCE Ur III 2040-1786 Middle Kingdom
2000-1600 BCE
2000-1700 BCE
Old Babylonian
Old Assyrian
2000-1200 Middle Bronze II
1600-1500 BCE Dark Age 1786-1558
2nd Intermediate
1600-1050 BCE Kassite/Middle Babylonian 1558-1085 New Kingdom 1100 “Conquest”
1400-1000 BCE Middle Assyrian
1000-626 BCE Neo-Assyrian 1050-925 United Kingdom
625-539 BCE Neo-Babylonian 586 Exile
539-330 BCE Persian/Achaemenid 539 Return
330-65 BCE Alexander and Seleucid successors
250 BCE – 230 CE Parthians (Arsacid)
230-650 CE Sassanian
650 CE – present Arab / Islamic

Late Helladic

Late Helladic I

Outside the partial circuit wall, Grave Circle B, named for its enclosing wall, contained ten cist graves in Middle Helladic style and four shaft graves, sunk more deeply, with interments resting in cists. Richer grave goods mark the burials as possibly regal. Mounds over the top contained broken drinking vessels and bones from a repast, testifying to a more than ordinary farewell. Stelae surmounted the mounds.

A walled enclosure, Grave Circle A, included six more shaft graves, with 9 female, 8 male, and two juvenile interments. Grave goods were wealthier than in Circle B. The presence of engraved and inlaid swords and daggers, with spear points and arrowheads, leave little doubt that warrior chieftains and their families were buried here. Some art objects obtained from the graves are the Silver Siege Rhyton, the Mask of Agamemnon, the Cup of Nestor, and weapons both votive and practical.

Tutankhamun – egypt ancient

Tutankhamun Home Page


Tutankhamun Throne
Tutankhamun Eyes
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The Tutankhamun Exhibition showing in Dorchester is the only exhibition on the young Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun and his treasures of its kind outside Egypt. The exhibition, now in its 21st year, is displaying, amongst other wonderful objects from the tomb, the world famous Gold Death Mask, the Golden Throne and Tutankhamun’s mummy.

We offer:

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Death Mask Of Tutankhamun

The exhibition is unique in that all the wonderful treasures displayed have been meticulously recreated by artists and craftsmen in every detail and measurement, using wherever possible identical materials and methods including real gold. Even parts of the tomb have been recreated, allowing visitors to see some of Tutankhamun’s treasures in their original setting, exactly as they were discovered by the English archaeologist Howard Carter when he first entered the tomb in Egypt’ Valley of the Kings in November 1922.

For educational purposes or just for entertainment, come to the Tutankhamun Exhibition to lift the veil on the mysteries of Ancient Egypt. A specialist Egyptian shop operates within the museum

http://www.tutankhamunexhibition.com

Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun (throne name Neb-kheperu-re) the famous “boy king”.

Life-size wooden head of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus flower.Tutankhamun was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1336-1327 BC). Ironically until Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb in 1922, Tutankhamun was one of the most poorly known of the pharaohs, he had a short reign, and his tomb is unlike most other royal tombs – consisting of only four small rooms rather than the long corridor style that was typical that period. After several years of fruitless digging in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s team had finally discovered a rock-cut step below the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI. This was the first of a flight of steps that led down to a walled up entrance to a tomb, plastered over and stamped with large oval seals, five of which were inscribed with Tutankhamun’s throne name, Neb-khepru-re. Continue reading Tutankhamun