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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Iraq museum unveils treasures
The Treasures of Nimrud were on display alongside other prized artefacts in Baghdad's museum

The Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad has briefly thrown open its doors to reveal one of its most famous collections - the Treasures of Nimrud, which date back to 900 BC.

It is the first time any part of the museum has been open since it was looted in the aftermath of the war.

A select group of dignitaries and journalists were allowed to view the collection for about three hours.

The US-led administration in Iraq says it wants to prove to the world that the treasures discovered in the 1980s are safe.

Archaeologists say the Treasures of Nimrud are one of the most significant discoveries of the century - a priceless collection of spectacular jewellery and other gold artefacts.

Last month coalition forces found them submerged in sewage water in an underground bank vault.

They had only been displayed once before, back in 1990, to a select group of guests of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Some water and sewage got in but they found that the Treasure of Nimrud was very largely unscathed and that with a bit of cleaning and polishing there should be no long-term damage," a spokesman for the museum said.

Investigation

The US-led administration says it wants to satisfy the world that the treasures are intact and to stimulate interest in Iraq's rich cultural heritage.

Iraqi women gaze at the new exhibition of Iraqi treasures in the National Museum in Baghdad, on 3 July 2003
The museum will not open to the public for some time
However, the museum will open to the public for about two years, said museum director Donny George.

In April, there was an international outcry when it was feared that most of the contents of Iraq's National Museum had been looted in the chaos of the war.

It later transpired that only a few dozen of the museum's prize antiquities had actually gone missing, along with thousands of lesser items from storage vaults like beads, amulets and pottery pieces.

But that is still a significant loss and an American-led investigation is now under way into what happened.

The lead investigator and some museum staff say some of the theft was the work of regular looters but that some of it was clearly an inside job.

Over the past few weeks investigators say several stolen items have turned up as far away as Italy and the US.

Others have either been returned or seized in military raids.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"They were found last month, submerged in sewage but otherwise safe"



SEE ALSO:
Iraqi museum recovers priceless vase
13 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
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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