He’s been legless for millennia – in fact he’s been missing everything from the neck down. But this week saw an ancient Akkadian statue’s head, dating from between the 21st and 23rd centuries BC, united with a replica of his body in Iraq’s Baghdad Museum (also known as the National Museum of Iraq). The head, discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Ashur in 1982, has been conspicuously bodiless – until Berlin’s Pergamon Museum agreed to send its own replica body, which was itself found in 1905. The deal also sees a copy of the head move in the opposite direction, as the Baghdad Museum strives to claw back an enviable Mesopotamian collection, after war-torn looting saw the museum stripped bare.
Curator Mohsen Hassan Ali tells AFP the head was lucky to survive the infamous looting, which has seen the occupying US Army come in for much criticism: “We have succeeded in bringing the two parts together, more or less, after a very long time.
“By chance the head was hidden during the looting of the museum when the Americans arrived in Baghdad,” Ali adds.”If not, maybe the two pieces – or to be more precise the two copies – would not have been reunited.” Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, thousands of prized Mesopotamian treasures have fallen into the hands of black market dealers and wealthy private owners.
Earlier, UNESCOpublished a damning report on the treatment of Iraq’s heritage by occupying forces. So far, objects have been returned from as far afield as Switzerland, Japan and the UAE – though a myriad more is still unaccounted for. The head, thought to be that of an Akkadian ruler, was originally copied in the 1990s with a view to this latest swap deal. However, the ensuing madness of two wars put paid to the museums’ plans. Germany has also offered its help in restoring Ezekiel’s tomb, south of Baghdad. The tomb is a shrine to the prophet who followed the Jews into Babylonian exile, following Nebuchadnezzar‘s 7th century BC conquests.
Image by ElissaSCA.