“A Desecration of Civilization”-Looting at the Iraq National Museum

The Iraq National Museum

The Iraq National Museum, Baghdad, Iraq

We all remember watching the iconic video of the statue of Saddam Hussein crash down in Firdos Square in Baghdad. However, many are less aware of a monumental event that occurred right around the same time that many historians consider to be one of the worst mass destruction of historic objects in the past century. Between April 10 and 12, 2003 the Iraq National museum went through a period of mass destruction and looting, with estimated losses totaling

around 15,000 objects. Many of the pieces destroyed or stolen were thousands of years old, dating back to the Mesopotamians. Some Iraqis unable to fight the armed looters, took precious items back to their homes for safe keeping until the museum was secured, unfortunately the majority of those in the museum during the looting were simply in search of destruction or riches. After taking much criticism for not helping to protect the museum during their occupation of Baghdad, the United States made hefty donations to help recover and revive the lost and destroyed items.  In 2009, the museum reopened for the first time, however, many of the exhibits remained closed and only special guests were allowed into the museum. This looting is likely to be remembered as one of the most detrimental strikes to ancient art in world history and has also been referred to as both a “desecration of civilization” and “a rape of mesopotamia”. Although about half of the lost or destroyed items have been recovered to repaired, it is likely that many of the ancient objects have been lost forever.

The museum has an awesome virtual exhibit that you can  access here: http://www.virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it/homeENG.htm






Wright, Jonathan. “The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind The Looting of the Iraq Museum.”Geographical 1 June 2009. Print.

George, Donny. “The Looting of the Iraq National Museum.” CAA News May 2008: 8-13. Web. 6 Sept. 2011.

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2 Responses to “A Desecration of Civilization”-Looting at the Iraq National Museum

  1. mrcarradine says:

    I agree. It is incredibly heart-breaking to think of the colossal damage that was done here, especially when thinking of the huge amount of work and time that went into finding, collecting and defining/analyzing the innumerable artifacts that were held in the Iraq National Museum. It wasn’t just the Iraqi people that suffered this major loss – we all did, we all lost remnants of our origins, our history as human beings. It is, however, truly inspiring to hear how so many of the museum’s employees risked themselves to protect items. This shows just how important and vital the pieces of our shared past is to most of us (minus the looters).

  2. afhowarth says:

    This was a hard article to read. Having spent most of my summer visiting some of the most famous museums in Europe, I experienced first hand what lengths museum curators and security personnel go through to protect these works. At most places, I wasn’t even allowed to photograph works. To think of people galavanting through the Iraq National Museum, destroying their own history is heart-breaking.

    Although I commend the U.S. government for contributing money to recover and restore lost works, the action came far too late and we are all suffering because of it. Those who took it upon themselves to shelter works did a very heroic thing and obviously had a bit more appreciation for art, history, and human identity than others.

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