Baghdad museum unveils two restored display halls

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The Baghdad National Museum has completed the renovation of two exhibition halls closed after looting following the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraqi antiquities and heritage chief Eedan al-Thahabi said.

The Islamic and Assyrian halls have been completely restored but will not be opened to the public until security measures can be put in place to prevent a repeat of the looting in which around 15,000 items were stolen.

Only 4,000 artefacts have been recovered despite the introduction of a reward system offering up to 3,000 dollars to those handing in stolen items.

“Eleven Iraqi search teams started to look for antiquities in some cities after a five year gap. What the museum is receiving now is part of what they have been able to recover,” Thahabi said.

The newly refurbished halls, which are among 14 that had been closed due to damage, are now home to a host of spectacular ancient treasures including a huge stone slab featuring the Assyrian god of water, Aya, found in the palace of Sargon II, king of Assyria from 721 to 705 BC.

Around 32,000 artefacts were looted from 12,000 archaeological sites around Iraq during the chaos which followed the US-led invasion.

The museum also has a laboratory to maintain and repair damaged artefacts which is supported by UNESCO and several European countries.