Investigator stalls in antiquities hunt
More help is needed from Iraq's neighbors, particularly Iran and Turkey, to recover thousands of antiquities looted from Baghdad's National Museum during the battle for the city in 2003, says the U.S. investigator leading the search.
While Jordan has recovered 2,000 objects, no Iraqi antiquities have been reported in Iran or Turkey, which have long, porous borders with Iraq.
"I find that incomprehensible," said Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a Marine Reservist who served as an assistant district attorney in New York for 14 years before being called to active duty four years ago.
Bogdanos was one of 11 recipients of the National Humanities Medal awarded Thursday by President Bush. Royalties from his book about the investigation, "Thieves of Baghdad," are being donated to the Baghdad Museum.
Although it may have looked as if all 170,000 objects had been looted during the fighting between American and Iraqi troops, Bogdanos estimates that only 10,000 to 15,000 items actually went missing. More than 5,000 objects have been recovered in six countries so far.
His investigation found that there were three kinds of looters: professionals who took some of the greatest rarities, such as the first known realistic sculpture of a human face; indiscriminate thieves who swept up many pieces, including copies and forgeries, into bags; and insiders who took valuable ancient seals and jewelry.
"The net effect is that thieves are probably just biding their time, waiting for a better day to sell their stolen wares," said the National Coalition for History, a group of American historical associations, in a weekly report.
Jordan has worked closely with the U.S. and Iraqi governments in identifying and protecting the objects it has recovered. They likely will be returned when the badly damaged museum in Baghdad is in better shape to receive them, Bogdanos said.
Based on the lack of reports from Iran and Turkey, Bogdanos said either the loot was going through their frontiers to the international black market or finds have not been reported. He said he did not know if the U.S. government had made any official request for information.
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