Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Looting was work of organised traffickers: UNESCO experts
Agence France-Presse (AFP) ^ | 4-17-03 | Huge Schofield

Posted on 04/17/2003 4:13:39 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer

PARIS, April 17 (AFP) - Much of the looting of treasures at Iraq's national museum was carried out by organised gangs who traffic in works of ancient art, according to experts at a United Nations conference called on Thursday to examine the war-damage to the country's cultural heritage.

"It looks as if at least part of the theft was a very deliberate, planned action," said McGuire Gibson, of Chicago University's Oriental Institute, who is president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad.

"Probably (it was done) by the same sorts of gangs that have been paying for the destruction of sites in Iraq over the last 12 years and the smuggling out of these objects into the international market," he said.

Looters sacked the National Archaeological Museum in Baghdad last Friday, removing or destroying thousands of artefacts and provoking widespread criticism of the occupying US army for failing to take steps to protect the building.

Among the items lost was a collection of around 80,000 cuneiform tablets that contain examples of the some of the world's earliest writing, Gibson said.

A 5,000 year-old Sumerian alabaster vase -- known as the Warka vase -- also disappeared.

The meeting of 30 international experts at the Paris headquarters of the UN's cultural organisation UNESCO was called to take stock of the damage to Iraq's heritage, recommend ways of safeguarding what remains and act to stop pillaged items reaching the world's art market.

In an address to the meeting, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura urged US and British forces to set up a "heritage police" to protect Iraq's cultural sites and called on states to adopt legislation to prevent the import of any "cultural, archaeological or bibliographical object having recently left Iraq".

He also announced the creation of a Special Fund for Iraqi Cultural Heritage, to which Italy has already contributed 400,000 dollars (euros).

The meeting ended with agreement to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq as soon as possible to assess the losses.

At a news conference, experts and UNESCO officials admitted their knowledge of the extent of the looting was sketchy. But Gibson said: "Some very important pieces which you would find in any introductory art book have been lost."

In addition to sacking the National Archaeological Museum -- with its unique collection of artefacts dating from the start of civilisation -- looters destroyed the National Archives Centre in Baghdad and burned the National Library burned. A museum in the northern city of Mosul was also looted.

A library of Korans in the religious endowments ministry was set on fire and a collection of 20th century Iraqi figurative art collected by the Gulbenkian museum was destroyed, the UNESCO conference was told.

Eye-witnesses have described some of the looters as being directed by well-dressed men who knew what they wanted to take. Gibson said these organisers had keys to the vaults where they believed the most valued items were kept.

According to Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum in London, some of the most important treasures were relocated in the Iraqi National Bank before the US-British invasion on March 20. And though this too had been looted it was unclear if the artefacts there had been taken.

Traffickers in Iraqi archaeological items have thrived since the 1991 Gulf war thanks to growing international demand and an economic crisis in Iraq which encouraged ordinary people to find innovative new ways to make money, according to experts.

"You could have 300 or 400 people working on just one site," according to Gibson, who said the gang leaders were based abroad and passed orders back to agents in Iraq. These then directed the illegal diggings and smuggled the artefacts out.

Three days after the looting in Baghdad, there were reports that art dealers in Paris and other European cities had already been contacted with offers of stolen items, Gibson said.

Experts said one of the first tasks would be to establish a database of items what had been housed in the National Archaeoligical Museum. It was unclear if the museum's own inventory -- contained in several ledgers -- had survived.

"If you want to destroy the illicit market (in stolen artefacts) there must be a clear database... The level of proof for criminal convictions does presuppose this kind of database," said MacGregor.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; United Kingdom; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: antiquities; godsgravesglyphs; iraqifreedom; keys; looting; museum; museums; trafficking; unesco; vaults
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-52 last
To: mewzilla
Remember how he tried to blame our troops for massive wrong doing when the Palestine Hotel got blasted?

This is why I can't take a steady diet of watch him. I know a fellow who grew up with O'Reilly, and he warned me from day one that O'Reilly is not a conservative. That O'Reilly takes a lot of shots at America that are not substantiated.
41 posted on 04/18/2003 7:30:36 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: jetson
Funny. But that was a horrible movie. :-)
42 posted on 04/18/2003 8:26:56 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: cmattair
you haven't had an original thought since you were born.

And I suppose you haven't had a thought that wasn't judgmental.

43 posted on 04/18/2003 8:28:52 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Oldeconomybuyer
Has this info been mentioned on NBC/CBS/ABC? They were so anxious to put the info out there that America was somehow complicit in the desctruction! I wonder if they'll be as forthcoming now that folks know more about the real situation.
44 posted on 04/18/2003 8:33:39 AM PDT by SuziQ
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Oldeconomybuyer
Expert Thieves Took Artifacts, UNESCO Says .
45 posted on 04/18/2003 8:40:01 AM PDT by aristeides
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ValenB4
I'm a student of history, which makes it all the more odd that I really don't give a rip about Korans that are destroyed. I guess I'm "intolerant," but I have little tolerance for a false religion that uses the sword as its principal evangelistic tool.
46 posted on 04/18/2003 8:50:16 AM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: My2Cents
Yeah, you're a lousy student of history. Judging by the cult of personality that is your homepage, under different circumstantances directing your intolerance and exclusivity of truth in another direction, you may well have been a useful follower of Mohammad.
47 posted on 04/18/2003 11:11:27 AM PDT by ValenB4
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: ValenB4
You don't know me, so your opinion matters not to me.
48 posted on 04/18/2003 4:08:07 PM PDT by My2Cents ("Well....there you go again.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 47 | View Replies]

To: Orlando
"This site should of been protected on day #1."

At the cost of how many irreplaceable American Marines??

49 posted on 04/18/2003 4:11:07 PM PDT by F16Fighter (Democrats -- The Party of Stalin and Chiraq)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Grampa Dave; mewzilla; hotpotato
Re O'Reilly:

In the 2000 campaign, I received the email accusing Hitlery of defending Black Panther murderers when at Yale.

[This has been the subject of David Horowitz, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. and others.]

I forwarded same to a long list, including O'Reilly.

How surprised was I to receive his lengthy and detailed--albeit unconvincing--refutation of the charge and his defense of Hitlery.

As that has been to date the only communique I have received from O'Reilly I mark him down as a snake.

50 posted on 04/18/2003 8:42:08 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: FirstFlaBn
Thanks for posting the exact wording of the Geneva Convention statute.

Here's how most of the liberal left thinks it is written:

Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another High Contracting Party shall as far as possible support prevent the competent national authorities of the occupied country in safeguarding and preserving from looting its cultural property.

51 posted on 04/18/2003 8:53:14 PM PDT by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty" not the "Statue of Security.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

· GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach ·
· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 Antiquity Journal
 & archive
 Archaeology Channel
 Bronze Age Forum
 Nat Geographic
 Science Daily
 Science News
 Texas AM
 Excerpt, or Link only?

Note: this topic is from 4/17/2003. Thanks Oldeconomybuyer.

Blast from the Past.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.

· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·

52 posted on 07/01/2011 7:43:19 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's the Obamacare, stupid! -- Thanks Cincinna for this link --
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-52 last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson