Iraq's ancient artefacts still missing





Three years after the Baghdad Museum was looted, thousands of archaeological artefacts have still not been accounted for, the museum remains closed and all excavation and research in Iraq has ground to a halt.

Dr Lamia Al-Gailani-Werr, an Iraqi archaeologist and member of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and former adviser to the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, says the destruction of Iraq's heritage is leaving a bitter legacy for future generations.

Currently living in England, al-Gailani-Werr returned to Iraq as a consultant immediately after the museum was looted.

Aljazeera.net: How would you describe the current state of Iraq's antiquities?

Al-Gailani-Werr: Dismal. There isn't one pressing issue, but many. The museum is sealed off because of the security situation and it is very difficult to get to the objects inside.

It is necessary to have an inventory of the antiquities in the museum, to know exactly what has been stolen. Without such an inventory, anyone can steal more and attribute it to the day when the museum was looted in April 2003.

The archaeological sites particularly in the south are still systematically being looted.

I cannot picture the enormity of the loss to the heritage of Iraq.

What must be done to recover the country's historical wealth?

If you mean the looted antiquities from the Iraqi Museum, it will take years and maybe never. For instance, 5000 objects were looted from the museums in the south after the 1991 uprising [after Iraq's defeat and ousting from Kuwait]. Only a handful has been recovered.

How many pieces were looted after 2003?

Until there is precise inventory we cannot say how many objects have been looted. But it is estimated at around 15,000 pieces.




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