"Missing in Action".

Por Benjamin R. Foster y Karen Polinger Foster.

When looters descended upon the Iraq Museum in Baghdad last week, they despoiled one of the world's pre-eminent collection of artifacts from the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys. Founded in 1923, the museum displayed thousands of objects in a score of galleries, from prehistoric stone tools to medieval manuscripts. The most important finds from archaeological excavations in Iraq in the last 80 years were housed there, plus their records and photographs. Tools and painted pottery bore witness to the beginnings of human agriculture and settled life. Indeed, the whole range of human productive endeavor for 5,000 years was there: sculpture, metal work, glass, ceramic, ivory, textiles, furniture, jewelry, and parts of ancient buildings. Inscriptions and documents told the story of peoples, states, empires, and civilizations every school child can name: the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Jews, Sassanians and Arabs.

Only a few of the most famous objects and inscriptions in this enormous collection have been published. The rest of a collection of more than 170,000 objects awaited study and publication, including a Babylonian library whose cuneiform tablets told a creation and flood story closely related to the one found in the Bible. That library is now scattered or destroyed. And it was only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of unread documents stored in the Iraq Museum.

We can only hope that Unesco and the Mesopotamian scholars meeting today in Paris can find ways to recover artifacts like the ones on this page. For now, we mourn both the loss of the treasures we knew and those we will never know, all once painstakingly preserved in this great museum for us and for future generations.

[Source: Benjamin R. Foster is professor of Assyriology and Babylonian literature and curator of the Babylonian Collection at Yale. Karen Polinger Foster is a lecturer in art history and Near Eastern civilization at Yale. New York Times, April 17, 2003]

War in Iraq and Global State of exception

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This document has been published on 19abr03 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.