Showing posts with label Iraq National Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq National Museum. Show all posts

April 12, 2015

An Updated Analysis of What Remains of Nimrud's NorthWest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II

Photo by Mustafa Al Najjar
As news of the Nimrud explosion video produced by Daash, ISIL, Deash, ISIS, Daaesh, Islamic State gets press time.  Rearchers and journalists are beginning to comment on the missing chunks and slices of the Assyrian reliefs seen from the video's imagery of the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II.  Social Media has been abuzz with speculation that these pieces may have been removed in advance of the explosion, for sale on the illicit antiquities market.   While this might partially prove to be  true, it is premature to speculate on this before cross referencing and doing so just adds to the shock and horror propaganda the militants want to demonstrate.

Sam Hardy has excellent Day One analysis of the attack on Nimrud as does Paul Barford who asks when this video was made.

A new PDF report analyzing relief and object damage was published by Simone Mühlon on April 15, 2015 and can be downloaded here

Assyrian reliefs, stone slaps and epigraphic remains in the form of cuneiform texts can also be found in private and museum collections throughout the world.  ARCA has listed a fairly comprehensive listing of the 76 known public collections and 6 private collections which contain material culture from this archaeological site.

Abegg Foundation, Bern
Amherst College, Amherst
Archäologisches Institut und Archäologische Sammlung der Universität Zürich, Zurich
Arkeoloji Müzeleri, Istanbul
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
The Art Museum, Princeton University
Arts & Culture Centre, Memorial University
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Australian Institute of Archaeology
Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbay, India (formerly Victoria and Albert Museum)
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
The British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,
Burrell Collection. Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbay, India (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)
Christ Church College, Oxford
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Fleming Museum, University of Vermont
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Glencairn Museum, Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn
Hood Museum, Dartmouth College
Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo
Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Michigan
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
Louvre Museum, Paris
Magdalen College, Oxford
Manchester University, Museum, Manchester
Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
M.H. De Young Museum, San Francisco
Miho Museum, Kyoto
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Mosul Museum, Mosul, Iraq (Condition unknown)
Middlebury College, Middlebury
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley
Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure, Genoa
Museo Barracco, Rome
Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Rome
Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels
Musei Vaticani, Rome
Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
Museum of Art, Cleveland
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw
National Car Museum of Iran, Tehran, Iran
National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad (Condition unknown)
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen
National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
Skulpturensammlung, Dresden
Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Swedish National Museum, Stockholm
Tyndale House, Cambridge
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Virginia Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria
Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown
Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities, Trinity College
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
Yale University, New Haven

Private Collections:
Anonymous (3)
Fred Elghanayan, New York,
Collection Merrin, New York
Collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne

A joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin has completed a comprehensive list of the known collection items with corresponding drawings to the Assyrian reliefs where information has been available.  This online reference may be useful in determining more details of what was gone before vs. what might have been cut away for illicit sales prior to the site's detonation.

Another excellent research project for review materials is the  "Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production: Object Biographies of Inscribed Artefacts from Nimrud for Museums and Mobiles".   Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/K003089/1) it was based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, UCL, the British Museum's Department of the Middle East, and the Babylonian Section of Penn Museum

In final comment, this might be an opportune time to underscore that the site does live on, primarily in the hearts and souls of the people of Iraq, but also tangibly, albeit widely dispersed. 

By Lynda Albertson

May 13, 2014

Exhibit Review: "Catastrophe! Ten Years Later: The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past" at the Royal Ontario Museum June 2013 – January 2014

By Dr. Susan Douglas, professor at the University of Guelph, Canada and ARCA writer-in-residence 2013

In April 2003, the plunder of the Iraq National Museum became headline news. The museum was ransacked systematically. Many priceless antiquities were stolen, including the museum’s entire collection of cylinder seals and the Warka vase, a masterpiece. Other items were badly damaged or destroyed, many of them permanently.

Along with material culture, institutional memory was altered dramatically during the events of April 8-12. The Library and the offices and archives of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage were targeted specifically. As looters raided the historic museum arsonists destroyed the National Library ruining a valuable scholarly database in the process. The database, maintained by museum staff, contained extensive records of Iraq’s ancient cultures; it is now slowly and painstakingly being rebuilt with help from specialists in many countries.

Catastrophe! succinctly presented the subtle consequences of political conflict and war. Originally developed by The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and revamped for the Royal Ontario Museum, this exhibition aimed to educate the public as to the devastation of Iraq’s cultural heritage. It drew attention to the issues, illuminating the threat stealing history and civilization poses for society. It delivered the message that iconic collections, historic buildings, archeological sites, and information are all under constant threat as part of the world’s cultural heritage.

The space was filled with texts and images, signs, rather than objects: powerful emblems of the underlying losses we’ve collectively suffered in the “land of two rivers,” former Mesopotamia.

There were six sections in this exhibit: Introduction; The Museum; Archaeological and Heritage Sites in Iraq; The Importance of Archaeological Context; Looted Artifacts; and What Has Been Done: What Can be Done? Protecting the Past. Site destruction -- the physical removal of objects from archeological sites, was a critical theme. Along with the destruction of Bagdad came the plundering of archeological sites in the region, a more pernicious threat to cultural heritage. In May 2003, over 300 looters were digging at Isin, a former capital of Mesopotamia discovered by Europeans in the 1970s. Isin was a significant center in the twentieth century BCE, when pilgrims travelled there to worship Gula, the goddess of healing, and to be cured. Signs and ritual tokens, in the form of cuneiform tablets and cylinders seals, were thought to aid in the healing process. When the worshippers left, these relics were left behind, and now they are the record of an ancient civilization and a resource be preserved and shared. They tell us, first and foremost, about our common history and identity. When archeological sites are desecrated our ability to understand past cultures is seriously hindered. This is why the protection of historic sites is a crucial.

We can all do our part as a society to stem the illicit trade in antiquities. The Looted Artifacts section shows looters brazenly producing “fresh” artifacts for sale, exploiting war conflict. Many articles are smuggled out of their countries of origin by organized criminals into the hands of collectors in just this way. The link between collecting and trade is clear; as an image of a box discovered in a market crammed with cylinder seals and other small relics still bearing accession numbers illustrates. In Iraq, though a few of the 15,000 items reportedly looted from the museum’s storerooms have since been recovered, most of them have disappeared into the illicit art market and are never likely to be found unless we all take responsibility as stakeholders.

This was a didactic exhibition. Warning: New knowledge. Some visitors might have left saddened. Others may have experienced a call to action.

Catastrophe! Ten Years Later: The Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Past was presented at the Royal Ontario Museum as a complement to Mesopotamia: Inventing our World that I will review in my next post.

Dr. Douglas, a writer and curator in Toronto, is the founding editor of the Glossary of Modern Latin American Art (Wordpress). Http:// The Glossary (GALA for short) contains many references to art and crime in Latin America and a University of Guelph project.

August 5, 2011

Katharyn Hanson on “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study”

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Katharyn Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, concentrating her studies in Mesopotamian Archaeology. Her archaeological experience has helped her to examine the dangers that archaeological sites face and what can be done to prevent the looting and destruction of these sites. In her presentation, “Looting at Archaeological Sites During Conflict: Iraq’s Cultural Heritage as a Case Study,” Hanson examined the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq and stressed the tools with which these sites can be protected in the future.

Opening her talk with the devastation of the Iraqi National Museum, Hanson highlighted the difficulties entailed in even knowing how much has been stolen from a museum—let alone from an archaeological site. In addition, the lack of recoveries made is even more depressing than not knowing how much was lost in the first place. After opening with this sad tale, Hanson used the same basis to talk about two archaeological sites in Iraq that have been devastated by looters: Umma and Umm al Aqarib. As she stated in her presentation, “By far, the majority of artifacts stolen from Iraq come from archaeological sites.” Using aerial and satellite photos, she was able to show the extreme addition of looter’s holes to archaeological sites from 2003 to 2008. The result was depressing and mind-numbing, with an increase of nearly 5,000 or more looter’s holes at each site over the course of five years.

Hanson also stressed that certain artifacts had been recovered after being found in the presence of weapons, such as AK-47s—marking a tie between the arms market and the black antiquities market. In a really somber moment, she stated that we do not really know where these works go after they have been dug up: “We don’t have a great answer. I don’t know.” Hanson then stated what measures are out there, legally, for protecting sites, such as CIPA, Customs Enforcement, and the Hague Convention which calls for sites to be protected during wartime. However, it was pointed out that sadly, these are more measures for protecting what is looted from sites in the hopes of recovering them. Hanson brought a very somber topic to the conference, but it was certainly one worth hearing and will, hopefully, advocate more work towards protecting archaeological sites in Iraq and around the world.

August 4, 2011

Larry Rothfield on What Museums and Archaeological Sites can to do protect themselves during times of upheaval and lessons learned from Cairo

by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Larry Rothfield, a writer-in-residence during the ARCA postgraduate program in Art and Crime Studies this year, presented his thoughts on the recent looting during the revolution in Cairo at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, on July 10.

"The recent revolution in Egypt provided a natural experiment or stress test of the security system that normally protects antiquities, whether in museums, or on sites or remote storerooms. What can we learn from the looting of the Cairo Museum (and from storerooms and archaeological sites around the country) about how other heritage professionals could and should be planning ahead to cope with similar situations of political instability that might strike their country?"

Rothfield described the failings of security during the recent revolution in Cairo that “allow us to see important things about the structure of heritage protection.” The lack of foresight to establish a contingency plan in the wake of the Tunisian revolution essentially left the Cairo museum unguarded and allowed a mob of one thousand people to break in to the gift shop of the museum, a very few of whom were able to then penetrate the galleries and steal a small number of artifacts. Some of these looters were apprehended by citizens who formed a human chain around the museum to protect it from further thefts.

Rothfield questioned why the “Pharoah of Antiquities,” Zahi Hawass, was not better prepared for the eventuality of the looting, the timeline involving his resignation and subsequent re-instatement after Mubarak’s toppling, the inaccurate reporting on the series of events surrounding the looting, and due to some strange coincidences, whether the thefts could have possibly been an inside job. He went on to list six lessons learned:
1. Contingency plans are needed to assure the safety of museums and cultural heritage sites during times of normal security breakdown.
2. Antiquities ministries are interested in scholarship and excavations and aren’t particularly interested in site security.
3. Well-conserved sites that are not armed are not protected.
4. Sites and museums can be protected by a mobilized public and dedicated civil servants.
5. There is no substitution for police, or militarized police, in general lawlessness.
6. Tourism revenue alone will not provide locals with enough incentive to protect heritage if doing so become too dangerous.
In response to questions regarding the arming of guards he said that he did not believe in simply handing out guns and that a contingency plan, training and an “all hands on deck” approach would have prevented the little looting that did occur. He also stressed that the situation in Cairo was very different than the issues that Donny George at the Baghdad Museum faced during wartime. An article in the Guardian published during the conference discussed Mr. Rothfield’s views in more detail.

Larry Rothfield is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, where he co-founded and directed the Cultural Policy Center from 1999-2008. He has published on a wide array of subjects in cultural policy. His last book, The Rape of Mesopotamia (University of Chicago Press, 2009) offers a behind-the-scenes look at the causes for the failure of US forces to secure the Iraq National Museum and the country's archaeological sites from looters in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

February 25, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - , No comments

Iraq's National Museum resumes limited operations

The National Museum in Baghdad officially reopened, as a “working institution,” but it is not yet open to the public. Security risks loom large; armed guards patrol the roofs and survey the grounds from machine gun nests; more valuable objects remain vaulted away.

Check out the NYTimes video. There’s some amazing ancient statues, and it's a good feeling to see one of the greatest and oldest collections in the world on display again, despite the ongoing issues.

February 20, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009 - ,, No comments

Iraq's National Museum nears re-opening

Iraq’s National Museum is scheduled to open on Monday, 2/23, unless it isn’t. Controversy rages over which ministry controls the museum, amid continued worries about security.
On February 11, Dr. Zainab al Bahrani, a former curator of the Met, Dr. Lamia al Gailani, a former curator of the Iraq National Museum, Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, a former Chair of Iraq’s Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and two others, signed a letter to Iraq’s government requesting postponement of the opening of the National Museum, for security reasons. The full text is available here.
The reopening would be a great step forward for Baghdad and Iraq. The collection, even reduced by looting, is one of the country’s crown jewels. The positive economic value of museums for tourism and education is undisputed, and much-needed in Iraq. However, it would be tragic to incur any further loss due to inadequate security, which is tantamount in a country with shaky peace. Over 12,000 items were stolen after the 2003 invasion, only half of which have been returned.