Iraqi Antiquities Department retrieves 36,000 artifacts since U.S. invasion

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Ordinary Iraqis have helped the Antiquities Department to retrieve more than 36,000 artifacts since the 2003-U.S. invasion, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Iraq_ArtifactsThe ministry’s spokesman Abdulzahra Talaqani said Iraqis willingly have returned the artifacts. “Most of the artifacts handed over to the National Museum have come from ordinary citizens. The number of the pieces given back to the museum surpasses 36,000,” Talaqani said.

Talaqani made the remarks following the delivery of three artifacts which were handed over to the museum by an Iraqi man from the religions Province of Karbala. He said the three  pieces were in good shape and each represented a distinct period in Iraq’s ancient history.

Iraqis returning the artifacts to the museum are immune from persecution and are handsomely compensated by the Antiquities Department. Not all the pieces returned to the Antiquities Department were stolen from the National Museum, which was plundered shortly after the U.S. invasion.

Talaqani said many of them were either illegally dug or found by farmers when cultivating their fields. Iraq is among the world’s richest countries in antiquities. It has more than 10,000 archaeologically significant sites which appear on Antiquities Department’s maps.

But Iraqi archaeologists say there are tens of thousands of more sites which might be pregnant with important artifacts. Since the U.S. invasion, exploration and excavation of archaeological sites have almost come to a standstill.

The country’s archaeological riches have fallen victim to robbers, illegal diggers and smugglers.


Source: Azzaman [February 5, 2011]


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