Monday, March 09, 2009

Iraq Appears to Have a Portable Antiquities Scheme of Its Own

According to a new report from Azzaman, Iraq has adopted a new law not only immunizing those who turn in looted antiquities but offering them compensation. It is not clear if there is any requirement to assist antiquities officials in locating the sites from which items may have been taken.

Government officials surrender 531 artifacts to Iraq Museum, among them gold and silver coins

By Zainab Khudair

Azzaman, March 9, 2009

The Iraq Museum has received 531 archeological pieces which were in the possession of senior government officials.

The pieces were handed over to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Qahtan al-Jibouri who in turn gave them to the Iraq Museum, according to the ministry's spokesman Abdulzahara al-Talaqani.

Talaqani said the first batch comprising a magnificent collection of numismatic coins was returned to the museum by Minister of National Security Shirwan al-Waili.

This batch included 366 gold and silver coins of various colors, Talaqani said.

He said the second batch of 165 artifacts was kept by two members of parliament and included mainly statues and cylinder seals.

Talaqani said Iraqi scientists who have examined both collections have said they were of astounding beauty and great value.

One magnificent piece, he said, was a pottery statue of a standing woman holding a beaker made of glass.

It is the first time senior government officials are reported to have been in possession of so many artifacts. The officials say the pieces were passed to them by ordinary people.

Under a new law in Iraq holders of ancient relics whether stolen or dug up illegally cannot be prosecuted if they choose to hand them over to the authorities willingly.

In fact, the law makes it incumbent on the authorities to compensate and reward anyone returning antiquities by their free will.

It is not clear whether the officials will get any compensation and Talaqani declined to say whether the pieces were among the thousands of missing artifacts or part of relics which are being dug up illegally by smugglers across the country.


Heather Hope said...

An interesting approach - hopefully it will work out well. It will be interesting to see how successful it is, and to consider how a similar program could be applied in other countries.

Anonymous said...

Might this not encourage/reward illicit excavations?