Crap, who knew this stuff was still going on?
Before he quit as head of Iraq’s antiquities board, Donny George made a final desperate attempt this summer to safeguard the relics of 5,000 years of history: He ordered the doors of the National Museum plugged with concrete against the near-unbridled looting of ancient artifacts.
George, the longtime guardian of Iraqi antiquities under Saddam Hussein and later under a government led by Shiite Muslim religious parties, then left the country and sent in notice of his resignation in early August, Culture Ministry officials confirmed Saturday.
George, who first alerted the world to the looting of Iraq’s irreplaceable ancient works of art and writings in the first days after American troops moved into Baghdad in 2003, told the Art Newspaper that he found “intolerable” the ongoing failure of Iraqi leaders and U.S. military forces to protect the sites.
George also complained of a lack of funding to protect archaeological sites around Iraq. Funding runs out in September for 1,400 specially trained patrolmen who guard archaeological sites, he told the art publication, and no more money has been budgeted to protect places that date back to the Sumerian civilization in 3000 B.C.
“I can tell you the situation regarding antiquities is horrible,” said McGuire Gibson, an authority on Mesopotamian archaeology at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.
“There was a lot of attention paid to the looting of the museum the very same days the war started,” Gibson said. “It hasn’t stopped. There has been looting of sites on an industrial scale. Some of the greatest Sumerian sites have gone.”