Iraq 'bleeding antiquities' as instability continues





As the US prepares to withdraw its last combat troops from Iraq, international cultural experts are warning that the country is "bleeding antiquities" and that artefacts representing the world's cradle of civilisation are still in peril.

Precise figures are hard to establish because much of Iraq's art and antiques remains undocumented. In 2003 an estimated 15,000 artefacts were stolen from the Iraqi National Museum and only about a third have been returned.

But experts believe hundreds of thousands more have been looted from the country's archaeological sites that rank among the most important in the world.

One such haul uncovered by customs officers in New York contained dozens of cuneiform tablets, the oldest known system of writing. Until they were found, nobody knew they existed.

They are among 1,054 items discovered in the US alone. Earlier this year, a pair of 2,800-year-old Neo-Assyrian gold earrings from a mass of gold jewellery known as the "Treasures of Nimrud" were among items returned in a special ceremony to the Iraqi Embassy in Washington DC....


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