Friday, July 10, 2009

Netherlands returns artefacts to Iraq

Expatica 10/07/2009, RNW 09/07/2009
Dutch authorities on Thursday handed back to Iraq 69 archaeological treasures – ranging from clay figures to ancient pots – that were smuggled out of the country, the culture ministry announced.
All the objects were taken during illegal digs in Iraq.
"Dozens of archaeological treasures seized in the Netherlands have been handed over to the Iraqi ambassador," a ministry statement said.
Artefacts which are handed back include a stamp with the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty ruler of the neo-Babylonian Empire in the 600 BC and a fertility totem dating back to 5300 BC. Nebuchadnezzar ‘signed’ using a stone from the temple he had built for the God of the Sun. The collection also includes a relief of a woman bending down to drink beer, who at the same time is being taken from behind by a man.
Trading in artefacts is widespread, as a result of illegal archaeological digs and also because of looting of Baghdad's National Museum in 2003.“Treasures are always turning up from Mesopotania in the art trade,” says Mr Meijer, an archeologist from the University of Leiden. “The problem with illegal excavations is that it is only about the treasures. The context in which they were found is lost. And this is precisely what is important to archeologists. Where were they found? What were they used for? What do the texts say? What conclusions can I draw from all the information? Without context it’s not worth anything.”

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