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Roman Silver and Stolen Culture

I’ve been catching up on the BBC Time Team episodes and came across this one about a hoard of Roman silver that was stolen from Hungary and sold to an English aristocrat.  The silver is in a vault owned by an art dealer and may never see the light of day again.  The man who discovered the treasure in Hungary was murdered.  So far, no one has been prosecuted for the stolen antiquities.

And that reminded me of the robbery of the Baghdad museum in the first stages of the Iraq War in 2003.  It’s been 10 years since Donald Rumsfield had the nerve to tell us that all vases look alike.  This Time Team episode has video of the theft in Baghdad as it happened.  Whoever did it knew exactly what they were looking for.  They probably had a shopping list.  The video shows one of the curators in tears, grieving over the loss of the Iraq’s priceless treasures.  Here’s the whole video.  It’s 49 minutes but worth the time.  It’s a story of theft, murder and privilege.  I have to say that the American legal system doesn’t come off too well here.

I can remember conversations I had with die-hard Christians over the looting of the Baghdad museum.  They didn’t think it was such a big deal because we were liberating the Iraqi people. {{rolling eyes}}  I found that attitude shocking and it permanently ruined my estimation of the person’s intelligence. It’s hard to take anyone seriously who could write off the theft of 10s of thousands of years of human history as no big deal because, you know, WMDs and stuff. All I could think of were thousands of cuneiform tablets that were smashed during the theft.  Those tablets could have contained histories of biblical figures or at least the literature and mythology of the eastern spur of the fertile crescent.  Maybe there was a “Abraham and Sarai: the early years” just waiting to be translated or a more explicit reference from Babylonian legal code to Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  Weren’t they at least concerned with the accuracy of the bible?  I guess not.  A clay tablet is just like any other clay tablet apparently.

I wonder how many people in Davos own a piece of Iraq?  How many Americans own a piece?  Has anyone ever been prosecuted for the Rape of Baghdad?

We should be ashamed that it ever happened.