Friday, May 16, 2003


Over on the IraqCrisis list, Francis Deblauwe writes:
The media made a big deal about the 39,400 manuscripts that were found back in a bomb shelter in western Baghdad and said that they were from the National Museum in Baghdad. This greatly helped to fuel the impression that the losses at the Museum were nearly non-existent after all. Now, from all info I have and from Edouard M�t�nier's assessment, it sure looks like this is the Saddam House of Manuscripts collection instead (split off from the National Museum in the 1990s). My question is: why has the scholarly community, esp. the ACCICH, not checked this issue ASAP and then contacted the media to make sure this gets the proper attention? We can roll our eyes when the umpteenth journalist writes that only some tens of artifacts are still missing from the Museum, but don't we need to be more actively countering this intentionally- or unintentionally-spreading wrong perception?


Yet no less an authority than McGuire Gibson, who has now visited the Baghdad museum, proclaims that "We have dodged a bullet � Through some luck and some real preparations by the museum staff, we have saved a lot," and this article assures us that:

"Looting at Iraqi museum probably overstated" (

What exactly that means remains to be seen. We should keep an eye on Dr. Deblauwe's Best guess of the Damage box on his website, but ultimately this is no more than a well informed guess that may be far off. Given that there is still strident debate over the number of civilian casualties � actual human beings killed � during the war in Afghanistan, I can't say I'm optimistic about our ever figuring out the fate of all the cuneiform tablets and artifacts in Iraq's museums. We'll see�

Meanwhile, here's an article I'm still scratching my head over:

"Iraq museum chief accused of looting plot"
May 11, 2003 The Sunday Times of London
Matthew Campbell, Baghdad

THE furore over the looting of Iraq's national museum took an unexpected turn yesterday when workers accused their director of conniving in the theft of priceless antiquities during the chaotic collapse of the regime in Baghdad. Fifty museum employees staged a protest in which they waved placards under the noses of American investigators proclaiming that Jabir Khalil, chairman of the Iraqi state board of heritage and antiquities, was a 'dictator' and a 'thief'.

Is it just me, or is this starting to sound like that Pink Panther movie (was it A Shot in the Dark?) where all the main characters apart from Inspector Clouseau turn out to be the murderer?

No comments:

Post a Comment