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The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has become a driving force in the ongoing effort to protect coin collectors and museums in which coins are stored from being forced to give up these items to foreign governments under the premise the coins are the cultural patrimony of the claimant nation. — Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News April 26, 2010



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AIA Backpedals on Iraq Museum Claims

The Archaeological Institute of America, which shamelessly fanned the flames of reported horrors at the Iraq Museum during hostilities in that country has now admitted publicly that the claims were greatly exaggerated, that there were mitigating circumstances to preclude U.S. military protection at the time and that many of the missing items have been recovered from within Iraq, not from the international market which was blamed extensively for the looting. The official press release follows:

By Wayne G. Sayles |
August 23, 2005


CONTACT: Naomi Norman, Editor-in-Chief, American
Journal of Archaeology, tel: 706-542-2187


(BOSTON, Mass. 22 Aug. 2005) - The July 2005 issue
of the American Journal of Archaeology presents an
engaging report on the looting and recovery of
artifacts from the Iraq Museum during Gulf War II.
Written by Matthew Bogdanos, a colonel in the U.S.
Marines, who has served in Iraq three times and who
received a Bronze Star for counterterrorism in
Afghanistan, it is the official published account of
the antiquities rescue operation and corrects many
inaccuracies that have been reported in the media

The world reacted with shock and outrage at the
pillaging of the Iraq Museum: it was a "crime
against humanity," a "tragedy that has no parallel
in world history." "It's as if the Uffizi, the
Louvre, or all the museums of Washington, D.C., had
been wiped out in one fell swoop," cried another.
There was ample reason for gloom. The list of
missing objects read like a "who's who" of
archaeology: the Sacred Vase of Warka, the world's
oldest known carved stone ritual vessel; the Mask of
Warka, sometimes called the "Mona Lisa of
Mesopotamia"; the Treasure of Nimrud, a collection
of more than 1,000 pieces of gold jewelry from the
eight and ninth centuries B.C. And so many more.

In the wake of the looting, the world was also vocal
in its condemnation of the United States and the
United Kingdom for failing to protect the museum. In
April 2003, the international media reported that
over 170,000 of the finest antiquities from the very
cradle of civilization had been stolen while U.S.
forces stood idle. In response, the U.S. dispatched
a highly specialized multiagency task force to
determine what had happened at the museum and to
recover as many antiquities as possible. Colonel
Bogdanos, who holds a master's degree in Classics
from Columbia University, headed the operation.

Among several startling discoveries were that the
museum compound had been turned into a military
fighting position, and that the initial reports of
the number of looted artifacts were wrong. Although
final inventories will take years to complete, the
best current estimate is that approximately 15,000
pieces were stolen. The investigation also
determined that the international black market in
Iraqi antiquities continues to flourish. Working
closely with Iraqis and using a complex methodology
that includes community outreach, international
cooperation, raids, seizures, and amnesty, the task
force and others around the world have recovered
more than 5,000 of the missing treasures.

The American Journal of Archaeology
( is one of the world's
most distinguished and widely distributed
archaeological journals. Founded in 1885, it is the
flagship publication of the Archaeological Institute
of America (, the
oldest and largest organization in North America
devoted to the world of archaeology. The AJA
continues to dedicate itself to the advancement of
archaeological studies and to the promotion of
interest in them. Its circulation reaches over 50
countries and almost 150 universities, learned
societies, departments of antiquities, and museums.
AJA is published quarterly in both print and
electronic formats in January, April, July, and

ACCG Editorial Comment:

The reported looting of the Baghdad Museum was grossly inaccurate and was certainly not a fabrication of the international media as suggested in this press release. Dr. Donny George, the director of the Baghdad Museum, is by the way spending a lot of time in the U.S. these days on AIA and sister agency sponsored tours speaking out against the antiquities trade. It was Dr. George who led or misled the media into reporting the grossly inflated numbers of items lost. When called on the point later, he claimed that the media "misunderstood" him. Dr. George clearly knew that the museum was being used as a military center by Iraqi forces, either regular or paramilitary, and that U.S. intervention would completely have destroyed it. In later interviews, he talked about the fear factor he experienced as a result. Dr. George was one of the archaeologists who publicly called for shooting looters of antiquities on sight. This is the man that the AIA has chosen to hold up to the world as a hero and a model. In spite of the fact that not a single coin is known to have been looted from the Baghdad Museum, the AIA actively opposed exempting coins from the provisions of H.R. 1047 (Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004) which is in my opinion one of the worst pieces of reactionary and useless legislation to be passed by the U.S. Congress in decades. The cultural property of Iraq was already under the protection of Administrative Order and legislation was totally unnecessary. The reason that it was promoted in a milieu of false hysteria was to provide room for an end run around the provisions of the CPIA and the deliberations of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. Now that the AIA has achieved that objective, they can smugly claim that things are not really so bad in Baghdad and wasn't it all just a big mistake? Sound familiar? - "Two steps forward, one step back". Not a bad plan, as long as you aren't walking into a fire.

Wayne G. Sayles

baghdad museum

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