Iraq Museum Reopens After 10 Years Iraq Museum Reopens After 10 Years Iraq Museum Reopens After 10 Years
- Iraq Museum Reopens After 10 Years
By LEON BARKHO, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The Iraq Museum
reopened its doors after 10 years with a
display of 10,000 artifacts taking visitors
to the roots of the Mesopotamian civilization
that invented one of the world's earliest
writing forms nearly 5,000 years ago.
The relics ranged from simple farming tools
used around 6,000 B.C. to colossal
winged-bull statues the Assyrians installed
at their city gates to instill fear in enemies.
The treasures, put back on show Saturday,
were removed for safekeeping shortly
before the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War, in which a U.S.-led coalition
ejected Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Officials have
been discussing the reopening for two years, saying the risk of
airstrikes had lessened.
Some 200,000 other pieces remain tucked away in Baghdad warehouses,
according to Muayad Saaeed, Iraq's most
prominent archaeologist. In the next few months, 10,000 more objects
are to be added to the display, said Rabie al-Qaysi
of the Antiquities Department.
Iraq's economy has been crippled by U.N. trade sanctions that were
imposed to punish Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq kept the costs of reopening the museum down by doing little in the
way of renovating the long-disused building.
At the reopening ceremony, the museum's
21 halls were clean, well lit and air
conditioned, as visitors and tourists
streamed through. Al-Qaysi has imposed a 50
cent entrance fee.
``It is very beautiful. The items are
gorgeous,'' said Michael Weigl, professor of
ancient Near Eastern Studies at Vienna
Weigl said he intended to organize scientific excursions for his
students in Austria to come to Iraq and visit the museum.
France's charge d'affaires in Baghdad, Garancher Bernard, said his
country had helped by giving back some duplicates of
Iraqi treasures in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Visitors were ushered first into the prehistoric hall, which displayed
implements used during the Neolithic age - such as
hammers, grinding stones and sickle-blades.
``These are the earliest farming tools in the world,'' museum director
Hana Abdulkhaliq said.
Several halls brimmed with Mesopotamian clay figurines, including those
of the mother goddess, the symbol of fertility
and reproduction. Other hallmark pieces of the period included clay
amulets, jars and pottery shards showing natural
scenes of birds painted in vivid and lustrous colors.
Relics of the Sumerians of southern Iraq, over whose ethnic and
linguistic roots scientists are still puzzling, occupied the
heart of the museum. Pieces included clay tablets with cuneiform
writing that played the role of today's books - as well as
cylinder seals the Sumerians used as signatures and passed on to the
ancient nations that later ruled Iraq and the Middle