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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Iraqi museum recovers priceless vase
Museum of Baghdad
Thousands of the museum's works were thought lost forever
One of Iraq's greatest cultural treasures has been returned to Baghdad's national museum after it disappeared during the recent war.

The Sacred Vase of Warka, dating from 3200 BC, was one of the museum's centrepieces, and was one of thousands which had been looted following the recent war in Iraq.

It was handed in by three men on Wednesday to a coalition team of security staff at the museum.

I shared the concerns of the international museum community that the vase may not be retrieved - this is reason for people all round the world celebrate
Pietro Cordone, cultural adviser to the coalition authority

The treasures were feared lost for ever but many of the pieces have since been found or returned.

The US administration said on Saturday that few items had actually been stolen.

Exploration of the museum's vault revealed 179 boxes, containing most of its exhibits, were stored there.

Other items have been voluntarily returned by museum staff who had taken them for safekeeping at the height of the war.

The return of the vase coincided with a visit to the museum from Pietro Cordone, cultural adviser to the coalition authority in Iraq.

Baghdad national museum
The damage to the museum hit global headlines
The ambassador met and thanked the three men, who also gave in other less important items.

"This is one of the most important pieces from the Baghdad museum and I am delighted it has been returned," said the ambassador about the vase.

"I shared the concerns of the international museum community that the vase may not be retrieved. This is reason for people all round the world to celebrate.

"I am also pleased that the number of artefacts still missing from the museum continues to reduce each day."

Vaults and boxes

The vase was one of 47 items reported last week as still missing from the museum's central exhibition collection.

A considerable reduction in the number of antiquities thought missing overall came after a secret storage vault was uncovered at the museum.

The discovery led US investigators to cut the total number of pieces listed as missing from about 170,000 to 3,000.

The investigators also said they had recovered a priceless Assyrian jewellery collection - the Nimrud artefacts - which had been deposited at the Iraqi Central Bank in the early 1990s.

Looting

Reports that much of the museum's collection of artefacts was missing caused outrage in the international art world.

An emergency summit of experts, led by the British Museum head Neil MacGregor, flew to Iraq in April to discuss how to recover the pieces.

They called on the United States to secure the borders of Iraq to prevent further export of looted items.

And they also called on the United Nations Security Council to impose a ban on all international trade on Iraqi cultural heritage.




SEE ALSO:
Tackling the stolen art trade
07 May 03  |  Entertainment
Hunt on for Iraq museum thieves
06 May 03  |  Middle East
Iraqi art 'stolen to order'
29 Apr 03  |  Tyne/Wear
UK sends antiquities experts to Iraq
15 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Restoring Iraq's cultural heritage
29 Apr 03  |  Entertainment


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