Worldwide Iraqi treasure hunt

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The looting of Iraq's National Museum was one of the greatest scandals of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Archaeologists had repeatedly warned Washington that, without protection, the Baghdad museum – which held the priceless cultural heritage of not just of Mesopotamia, but of mankind – would be ransacked by looters.

And it was...

...The oldest known sculpture of a natural human face, the Warka Head, known as the Sumerian Mona Lisa, gone. A 4,500-year-old bronze figure of an Akkadian king, gone. At least 5,000 Sumerian cylinder seals engraved with the earliest form of writing, all gone...

...Five to seven years is the average lag time for famous stolen art or antiquities to surface and it's now six years since the museum's plunder. But despite an ongoing international crackdown on smuggled Iraqi artifacts, fewer than half the stolen treasures have been recovered.

Many were returned in the first few months, after the U.S. snapped into action and appointed Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a Manhattan district attorney in private life, to head a 13-member investigation team.

Bogdanos announced an amnesty, and by the fall of 2003 more than 3,000 items were returned voluntarily by locals, including the famed alabaster Warka Vase, albeit brought back in 14 pieces in a plastic bag. Another 900 objects were seized in raids and at checkpoints, among them 10 of the 42 most valuable artifacts. They included the Warka Head, found buried at a farmhouse, and the Bassetki statue, a 4,300-year-old copper lower torso and legs of a seated male figure. It had been hidden in a cesspool, submerged...

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