ALR Tracking Stolen Iraqi Artifacts

|

By Caroline McDonald

|

NU Online News Service, May 22, 3:44 p.m.EDT?An insurer-supported service that helps carriersrecover stolen art and artifacts is working to retrieve historicitems looted recently from the Baghdad Museum during the Iraqwar.

|

Even though the missing items are not insured, DavidShillingford, marketing director for the Art Loss Register, locatedin New York, noted that insurance companies are indirectly playingan important role. "We wouldn't be here if [insurers] didn'tprovide financial support."

|

Eighteen U.S. insurers support ALR through an annual fee basedon fine art premiums, and a recovery fee for anything retrievedthat has been paid out on, he said.

|

But Mr. Shillingford explained that reports of thousands ofartifacts being stolen from the Baghdad Museum are inaccurate.

|

"You probably remember in the very early days there were rumorsof tens, if not hundreds of thousands of items being looted fromthe Baghdad museum," Mr. Shillingford said. "It has emerged that anumber of items had been taken for safe keeping. It now seems thatthe total of items that may have been [stolen] from the museum iscloser to 1,000 than the original numbers feared."

|

The number of artifacts reported stolen have been "reducedsignificantly because items have been located," he noted.

|

He added that reports that stolen museum items returned bycitizens were also erroneous. "It appears that a lot of those werenot items that came from the museum, and are either fakes or justlumps of rock that people hoped to get a reward for turning in," hesaid.

|

Experts in the museum community have been busy researching andconfirming which items were, in fact, stolen, he said.

|

Currently 26 of those items are now registered on the ALRdatabase, he said. The Interpol Web site lists 19 stolen items.Other organizations involved in recovering lost artifacts from Iraqare the Federal Bureau of Investigation and UNESCO (United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), he said.

|

"We've only just started putting the [stolen] items on ourdatabase," he said. "There are bound to be more. The worst thing todo would be to just put any items up that might be missing becausethat would just confuse everyone."

|

Mr. Shillingford said that several items have been recoveredfrom the Desert Storm conflict in 1991. One item recovered in 2002by ALR is an Assyrian gypsum relief from the palace ofAssurnasirpal II, which was at Nimrud in Mesopotamia, he said.

|

The item, which at one time was in a museum, was excavated inthe 1970s. The item has been seized and is now being investigatedin London.

|

Mr. Shillingford said the gypsum relief was discovered while itwas being imported into the United Kingdom. "We were able toidentify it as this item that had been in Iraq and should not haveleft Iraq," he said. "If it's the piece we suspect it to be, itcould be worth $1 million to $2 million."

|

The Gulf War, he said, "is a slightly different situationbecause no one had access to Iraq," so therefore, "no one hadaccess to when [artifacts] left the country."

|

ALR, he noted, has recovered numerous antiquities from variousparts of the world that have been illegally excavated. But an itemwithout a history is more difficult to investigate, he explained."If something hasn't been seen for 6,000 years, it will not be onour database."

|

Mr. Shillingford said he is confident that stolen items from theIraq war will be recovered. "We've started registering items fromthis war and in the long term we'll have better access toinformation about what is missing than we did after the 1991conflict," he said. "These things will sooner or latersurface."

|

He added that the antiquities trade, which consists of museums,dealers and collectors, "does search extensively with us beforethey acquire items, so there is a good chance of recovering some ofthem. They would be unwise not to carry out a search with us, andmost do."

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader

  • All PropertyCasualty360.com news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including BenefitsPRO.com and ThinkAdvisor.com.
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.