Search still on for looted Iraqi antiquities

This is from the L.A. Times. It’s all about the amount of antiquities still missing after being looted when Baghdad fell. That was five years ago today, btw.

At first it was thought the damage done by theft was much much greater, and anyone who loves art and history looked on in horror as numbers like 150,000 were bandied about when those reports mentioned numbers of missing artifacts.

They were talking about the beginings of human civilization – ancient, ancient stuff – that carried with it priceless provenance and importance. Many of those pieces, it turns out, had long ago been hidden by smart curators, well out of harm’s way, and that initial massive number dwindled to 15,000.

Of those 15,000 known artifacts, 7500 have been recovered. That still leaves half, and an amazing amount of history still floating around black markets or destroyed and trashed.

The good thing is that these pieces are rare enough that, when one surfaces at auction or on the market, it is usually quickly recognized and taken back to its proper home. This is further heightened in an age when national museums around the world are demanding back priceless antiquities that were looted in past ages of imperialism. Greece is doing it, so are Italy, India and China, among many. This seems to have hit western museums hard. The culture flowing out of Iraq, home to the fertile crescent where it’s thought so much life firt streamed out of, is older by millenium than most other countries. It bears direct links to stories in the Old Testament. Of anywhere that deserves its history back, then surely it’s there.