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[casi] Yeah, Yippee - Kill that Looter Ratpack ...

Yeah, Yippee - Kill that Looter Ratpack ...


Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2003 by the Guardian/UK

Kill Looters, Urges Archaeologist

by Maev Kennedy

An American archaeologist yesterday urged her compatriots to kill the
looters who are pillaging archaeological sites in Iraq.

Elizabeth Stone, head of archaeology at Stony Brook University in New York

"I would like to see some helicopters flying over these sites, and some
bullets fired at the looters," Elizabeth Stone, head of archaeology at Stony
Brook University in New York, said in London yesterday. "I think you have
got to kill some people to stop this."

Professor Stone, who directed major excavations in Iraq in the 1980s, is a
speaker at an international conference on the archaeology of the region,
being held this week at the British Museum.

The war and its aftermath dominated the conference, which was planned long
in advance of the hostilities.

Prof Stone said the systematic looting of major archaeological sites and the
destruction of artifacts such as broken cuneiform clay tablets, discarded by
looters as worthless to collectors than intact tablets, but which could hold
priceless information for archaeologists, may prove a greater disaster than
the well publicized looting and destruction at the national museum in
Baghdad, and the museum in Mosul.

"At least to a certain extent we know what was in the museum, but we don't
know what has been taken from the sites, and that knowledge has been lost to
us forever."

Donny George, head of research at the museum service, said gangs of up to
300 were systematically ransacking archaeological sites, many untouched by
archaeologists. The country has more than 10,000 registered sites, ranging
from a few square meters to the huge sites of some of the oldest cities in
the world. "They are armed, and they will shoot," he said.

Muayad Damerji, senior adviser at the culture ministry, said local sheikhs
should be recruited and paid to protect the sites.

Dr George and the Baghdad museum director, Nawala al Mutawwali, emphatically
denied that any museum staff were implicated in the thefts from the
collections. Both have been the target of repeated accusations that some
staff at least colluded with the looting, and then exaggerated the scale of
the destruction.

Half the stores have now been searched - the work was hampered until
electricity was restored only a few weeks ago - and they said 13,000 objects
were definitely missing, around 10% of the entire collection, including all
the oldest cylinder seals. Other thefts include small ivory and metal
objects, and ceramics.

In the main galleries only 47 objects were stolen, but four important Roman
statues were smashed, and their heads stolen. In the stores thousands more
objects were smashed, including ceramics which are piled in fragments
knee-deep on the floor of one of the stores. Some of the most precious
ivories, from Nimrud, which were stored in a vault at the central bank, were
stained by sewage-contaminated water which flooded the basement when the
city was bombed. British Museum conservators are to study them to see if
they can be cleaned without damage.

 Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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