Iraq's cultural heritage continues to be depleted as museums and archaeological sites plagued by smugglers

In a lecture given at London's Institute of Archaeology, Dr Lamia al Galiani-Werr drove home the urgency of the issue


A lecture delivered on 4 March at London’s Institute of Archaeology by Dr Lamia al Galiani-Werr, a research associate at the Institute and specialist in Mesopotamian cylinder seals, highlighted the continuing archaeological crisis in Iraq (see The Art Newspaper, No.47, April 1995, p.18). According to Dr al Galiani-Werr, the country’s heritage is at risk as portable antiquities continue to be illegally removed from excavated sites and looted from museums in the wake of the Gulf War. Most of these objects are destined for Western markets. Recently an entire library belonging to the Religious Trust of the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq was stolen. The contents included numerous Qur’ans, literary and religious manuscripts and many books that are no longer in print. Two regional museums have also been looted recently. One in Wassit, Eastern Iraq, the other the site museum at the ancient city of Ashur. In many cases the cataloguing of looted items is destroyed by the thieves and all traces of the stolen objects disappear.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Continuing crisis in Iraq'