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6/24/03 - BAGHDAD MUSEUM GETS VASE BACK - 2003-06-25

The five-thousand-year-old Sacred Vase of Warka has been safely returned by an Iraqi citizen to the National Archeological Museum in Baghdad. The Warka vase was one of a large number of valuable artifacts reportedly looted from the Baghdad museum in April. Since then, many items have been returned. Fortunately, much of the museum’s collection had been hidden by museum authorities before the fighting to oust Saddam Hussein began.

Such was the case with the Treasure of Nimrud. These gold- and gem-studded artifacts from the ancient kingdom of Assyria were recently retrieved from the vault below Baghdad’s looted and flooded central bank, where they had been placed for safekeeping.

Looting was widespread in the wake of Iraq’s liberation from the Saddam Hussein tyranny. It is still believed that thousands of objects are missing from three Baghdad museum anterooms entered during the April looting. U.S. personnel have been working with Baghdad museum authorities to find the looted antiquities, said Colonel Matthew Bogdanos:

“It must be stressed that the loss of a single piece of mankind’s shared history is a tragedy. But it is clear that the originally reported number of one-hundred-and-seventy-thousand was a gross, if dramatic, exaggeration.”

With international assistance, officials at the Baghdad museum are conducting an exhaustive inventory. Meanwhile, to prevent more looting elsewhere in Iraq, coalition forces have stepped up security at many locations where there are monuments and burial sites of antiquity.

Coalition forces will continue to work with Iraqis to find missing items. But everyone who understands the importance of preserving the past can be grateful that the Baghdad museum’s losses are far less than originally feared.