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2003-04-17

Did U.S. Antiquities Dealers Plan to Loot Iraq Themselves: A Debate Between the American Council for Cultural Policy and the Cambrian Archaeological Association

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The looting of museums in Iraq has left thousands of invaluable artifacts missing, including the limestone Warqa Vase of 3,500 BC, the bull’s head harp of Ur, and the squatting Akkadian king of 2,300 BC.

According to Irving Finkle, of the Ancient Near East department of the British Museum, at least four of the looted objects were so vast that it would have taken a fork-lift truck to move them.

Meanwhile at home, controversy surrounds the intentions of a coalition of wealthy and influential American antiquities collectors at home.

Months before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the group met with defense and state department officials to discuss the fate of the country’s artifacts.

Nine British archaeologists published a letter in the London Guardian, charging that the coalition is "persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq’s heritage by prevention of sales abroad, arguing that antiquities will be safer in American museums and private collections than in Iraq."

The main group behind this alleged move was the recently formed, The American Council for Cultural Policy. They have denied the allegations.

  • Geoffrey Wainwright, President of the Cambrian Archaeological Association.
  • William Pearlstein, treasurer of the American Council for Cultural Policy.

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