WikiLeaks: 2003-05-10: 03KUWAIT1929: Protecting Iraq's Cultural Heritage
Viewing cable 03KUWAIT1929, PROTECTING IRAQ'S CULTURAL HERITAGE: UPDATE MAY 6
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 001929 SIPDIS DEPT FOR NEA/NGA, NEA/PD, ECA DEPT PASS TREASURY FOR U.S. CUSTOMS DEPT PASS PRESIDENT'S SCIENCE ADVISOR W. JEFFREY DOJ FOR SWARTZ PARIS FOR UNESCO OBSERVER MISSION DEPT PASS HOMELAND SECURITY FOR BICE M. GARCIA FROM ORHA/BAGHDAD- JLIMBERT E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: SCUL PGOV MOPS IZ SUBJECT: PROTECTING IRAQ'S CULTURAL HERITAGE: UPDATE MAY 6 ¶1. SUMMARY: Ongoing investigations at the Iraqi National Museum are revealing the extent of losses from display galleries and stores from the early April looting. Present reports indicate 38 items, including some well-known pieces, were lost from or damaged in the display galleries. Tallies of the restoration and storage rooms are still incomplete and may take months to finish. Museum officials continue to receive reports of looting of remote archeological sites. About 50,000 manuscripts, from another building, are still well-protected at a bomb shelter in a residential neighborhood, but reports indicate losses at a smaller manuscript collection. END SUMMARY. THE IRAQI NATIONAL MUSEUM: TALLYING THE LOSSES ¶2. Continuing work at the Iraqi National Museum is clarifying the extent of the losses there. As of May 4, investigators from U.S. Customs and the museum officials had identified 38 lost or damaged items from among those in the museum displays when it was looted. These items include famous items such as the Sumerian sacred vase of Warca, dated 3000 B.C, and a diorite statue from Ur with a cuneiform inscription (ca. 2430 B.C.). Other well-known missing items are the heads of three second-century A.D. statues from Hatra, modeled on Greek originals from the fourth century B.C. ¶3. Investigators have not completed work in the Museum's restoration room, where a thorough investigation of debris may reveal more lost or damaged items. Preliminary results show 10 missing pieces and one damaged artifact - the famous golden harp of Ur. Museum officials now believe that the harp's original golden head had been replaced by a copy, now stolen. Some of the best-known pieces still missing from the restoration section include three eighth-century B.C. ivory pieces from Nimrud. ¶4. Museum officials have begun their inventory of items lost or damaged from the storage vaults, and the final account may take months to complete. First results indicate that most items taken from the vaults were small and transportable: statues and cylinder seals. Confirming these results were the content of a case returned to the museum by INC forces, who reportedly found the items at a checkpoint. Most of those items were of the sort described above. As of May 5, the return of objects from individuals had slowed down. Still unknown are the details about objects that Jordanian officials have reportedly seized at the frontier ¶5. In a visit to the museum on May 5, we found the museum officials particularly concerned about the integrity of remote sites, particularly Sumerian remains in the south. They were especially worried about uncontrolled digging. An ORHA officer reports in Hilla that the site museum and expedition house at Babylon were looted, but there is no way to know if looters have damaged the site itself. U.S. forces have controlled access to the site of Ur, and are dropping leaflets warning against disturbing other sites around Nassiriya. MANUSCRIPTS IN THE BOMB SHELTER ¶6. On May 5, we also visited the National Manuscript Center (formerly the Saddam Manuscript Center), which had housed about 50,000 Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Greek, and Syriac manuscripts. About four months before war broke out, recalling the loss of manuscripts in 1991, employees, led by Center's Chairman emeritus Ousama Naghshbandi, began moving the manuscripts to a bomb shelter in a residential neighborhood. The shelter is impressive: a one-story windowless block with the precious items secured behind at least three heavy steel doors. It would take a very determined looter to break in, and the local inhabitants - although not on good terms with Naghshbandi - have defended the location. ¶7. Looters could not break into the barred and bricked-up manuscript center itself, located in a 1920s house in downtown Baghdad. They did, however, trash the neighboring manuscript restoration center, although damage was limited to loss of materials, air-conditioners, furniture, and plumbing fixtures. Reports from other collections indicate that manuscript collections at the Shiia religious centers at Karbela and Najaf are undamageed. Looters did, however, vandalize and pillage the manuscript library of the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, containing about 5,000 items. JONES