Thursday, March 12, 2009

More on Iraq's Amnesty/Rewards Program for Turning In Looted Antiquities

Donny George has kindly clarified that the amnesty program is not new, but is mentioned in Iraq's antiquities laws. Antiquities coming to the museum are brought before a special "Technical Committee" which decides on the amount to be awarded the person who brought them. The money comes from the annual budget of the SBAH, as a line item. Sometimes the funds are exhausted before year end, and more monies have been requested from the ministry of finance to support the program. In 2003-2004, for obvious reasons, it was difficult to get money for the program, but the SBAH kept records for every one that brought antiquities to the museum, and payments were eventually made.

Perhaps as useful as the artifacts themselves is the information that those returning items are supposed to provide the Committee regarding where and how they obtained the items to begin with. According to Donny George, such leads have in the past helped archaeologists locate hitherto unknown sites.

The problem with the turnover of materials by high-level officials, however, is that -- if these officials are to be believed -- they merely accepted antiquities from their constituents. If that is the case, and those constituents cannot be identified and brought before the Committee, then any chance of tracking antiquities back to their original sites is lost.

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