Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Sad News
In the spin and spun of pertinent information leading to what was and wasn’t stolen from the Iraq National Museum and what has and hasn’t been recovered comes this Associated Press report posted on the New York Times Website at 1:47am with specific news about the status of the 4,000 year old harp from Ur mentioned in early reports detailing the Museum looting:

Harp, inlaid with shells, precious stones
and gold, 2,450BC

…American investigators and museum officials found that only 17 cases had been broken into. Thirty-eight items have now been confirmed missing and 22 damaged in the main gallery -- far less than originally feared…no one knows the status of tens of thousands of antiquities kept at storage sites across the city, or an untold number of smaller, portable items that museum officials removed for safekeeping months before the war…671 items have been returned to the museum since officials began broadcasting appeals over the coalition's Information Radio…Among the most treasured finds was the clay pot, circa 5000 BC. ``I know that piece,'' said Bogdanos, a Marine reserve officer and Manhattan assistant district attorney who once prosecuted rapper Sean ``P. Diddy'' Combs in a 1999 nightclub shooting. He also has a master's degree in classical studies. ``I studied that pot in graduate school.”… Investigators found 339 tin trunks full of ancient books, scrolls and manuscripts at a bomb shelter in western Baghdad…U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces also recovered some 465 items near the border city of Kut when they stopped a vehicle speeding toward Iran…the museum's gold and silver pieces are believed to be in underground vaults at the bombed-out central bank. Bogdanos' team found those vaults intact Tuesday, though no one seems to know which ones contain the artifacts or how to get into them. Many more items were kept in five reinforced storage areas at the museum. While none were forced open, it was apparent that three of them were entered in the days after officials abandoned the museum. ``It is clear that the person who did this had intimate knowledge of the museum and its storage practices,'' Bogdanos said…a golden harp from the ancient Sumerian city of Ur – [was] found among the museum debris. The harp was in pieces, Bogdanos said, but can be restored.

Buried in this story at the is an advance of the widely reported pre war meeting between “the American Council for Cultural Policy (a privately funded association of collectors and lawyers) and Pentagon and State Department officials” and a statement by ACCP treasurer William Pearlstein.

Under the miniheadline, Is the US planning to change Iraqi law?

The rumor that the US is planning to “liberalize” Iraq’s tough laws on the export of antiquities, widely reported in the international press, derived from a meeting in Washington on 24 January between the American Council for Cultural Policy (a privately funded association of collectors and lawyers) and Pentagon and State Department officials.
The council’s treasurer, William Pearlstein, was later quoted in the US magazine Science as describing Iraq’s laws as “retentionist”, and he wanted to see “some objects certified for export.”
American Council for Cultural Policy president Ashton Hawkins told The Art Newspaper that what Mr. Pearlstein had done was to voice his personal opinion after the meeting, and that this, did not represent council policy. He insisted that “there had been no discussion of Iraqi law” at the Washington meeting.
Changes to the present law of 1936 (amended in 1974-75) would in any case be impossible before the establishment of a new democratically elected government.
Under international law, an occupying power can only alter laws on humanitarian or public order grounds. Nevertheless, the fact that Metropolitan Museum director Mr. de Montebello is now suggesting that international museums should participate in new archaeological excavations and receive export licenses suggest that Mr. Pearlstein’s views would enjoy some support.

Plus get a cup of coffee and click for a September 11, 2001 must read!

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