Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, April 18, 2003
More from the Washington Post on the Museum looting:

Looters at Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities pillaged and, perhaps, destroyed an archive of more than 100,000 cuneiform clay tablets -- a unique and priceless trove of ancient Mesopotamian writings that included the "Sippar Library," the oldest library ever found intact on its original shelves...The Sippar Library, discovered in 1986 at a well-known neo-Babylonian site near Baghdad, was one of the archive's crown jewels.

Dating from the sixth century B.C., it comprised only about 800 tablets, but it included hymns, prayers, lamentations, bits of epics, glossaries, astronomical and scientific texts, missing pieces of a flood legend that closely parallels the biblical story of Noah, and the prologue to the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient Babylonian lawgiver...Iraqi archaeologists found the library in a previously unexcavated section of temple ruins at Sippar, 20 miles southwest of Baghdad... said Jeremy Black of Oxford University's Oriental Institute. "The tablets were still in the pigeonholes, intact and in place. We'd never found such a thing before." "It's very hard to absorb what has happened here," said Johns Hopkins University Assyriologist Jerry Cooper. "It as if the entire Mall -- the National Archives and the Smithsonian -- had been looted, along with the Library of Congress." And although U.S. officials have said the United States will help recover and restore the collection, it may be too late. Stone noted that cuneiform tablets, for all their longevity, do not travel well. "You put these things in the back of a truck and drive over a bumpy road, and pretty soon you have a sackful of dust."

The BBC, meanwhile, reports a third resignation from the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property identified as Richard S. Lanier, "director of a New York foundation".
Photo: Detail, 3rd Ur Dynasty Tablet, Clark Collection of Ancient Art, Ripon College, Wisconsin

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