Posted by Sadie from ? (188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 at 12:25PM :
Nature 422, 654 (17 April 2003)
Baghdad looters rob museum of priceless ancient treasures
[BAGHDAD] Last week's ransacking and plundering of Iraq's National Archaeological Museum, one of the most important museums of Middle Eastern antiquities, may have robbed the world of some of its most important treasures. These include one of the oldest known clay tablets bearing cuneiform script — probably the first written language — which had not yet been deciphered.
Iraq was the home of the Sumerian civilization — one of the oldest known to archaeologists — and has been the subject of extensive research over the past century. The national museum and its stores were packed with artefacts, many of which had not yet been examined. More than 170,000 items are estimated to have been stolen.
The museum was reopened only three years ago after repairs following damage incurred during the last Gulf War, when some 4,000 artefacts were also stolen. Other stolen items include bronze statues, religious statuettes, Sumerian gold jewellery and a 4,000-year-old harp.
Museum staff believe that, besides the local looters, specialists are targeting and stealing items of particular historical value.
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