Iraqi museum unveils ‘looted’ artefacts

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Over 2,000 artefacts, including about 100 that were looted and found abroad, were unveiled in Basra museum. (AFP)
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The heritage of Iraq, most of which was former Mesopotamia, has paid a heavy price due to the wars that have ravaged the country for nearly four decades. (AFP)
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The museum is located in southern Iraq. (AFP)
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People visit one of the three newly opened galleries in southern Iraq's Basra museum, on March 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Iraqi museum unveils ‘looted’ artefacts

  • Basra is the most oil-rich province in Iraq but its heritage sites have long been neglected
  • US says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artefacts to Iraq since 2005

BASRA, Iraq: Over 2,000 artefacts, including about 100 that were looted and found abroad, were unveiled Tuesday in a museum in Basra province on the southern tip of Iraq, authorities said.
Basra is the most oil-rich province in Iraq but its heritage sites have long been neglected.
On Tuesday between 2,000 and 2,500 pieces went on display in the Basra Museum, the second largest in Iraq, said Qahtan Al-Obeid, head of archaeology and heritage in the province.
“They date from 6000 BC to 1500 AD,” he told AFP, referring to the Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian periods.
Obeid said about 100 artefacts — most of which came from Jordan and the United States — were given back to Iraq to be displayed in the museum, a former palace of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
The heritage of Iraq, most of which was former Mesopotamia, has paid a heavy price due to the wars that have ravaged the country for nearly four decades.
Following the US-led invasion that overthrew Saddam in 2003, Daesh group militants destroyed many of the country’s ancient statues and pre-Islamic treasures.
During its occupation of nearly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, Daesh captured much attention by posting videos of its militants destroying statues and heritage sites with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills on the grounds that they are idolatrous.
But experts say they mostly destroyed pieces too large to smuggle and sell off, and kept the smaller pieces, several of which are already resurfacing on the black market in the West.
The United States says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artefacts to Iraq since 2005, including many seized in conflict zones in the Middle East.


‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Updated 19 April 2019
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‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.