The Baghdad Museum Project
|Reported Missing: The Ivory
Chair-Back (IM 62722)
By Alessandra Gilibert
Special to the Baghdad Museum Project
This composition of ivory panels delicately carved in
relief was found together with similar pieces in a storeroom of a princely
palace in the Assyrian capital Kalhu, the biblical Calah and modern Nimrud,
in northern Iraq. Originally, the panels fitted a piece of wooden furniture,
probably the back of a luxury box-wood chair. In time, the wood rotted away
but the ivories survived, to be found by the excavators still in their proper
Although unfortunately quite corroded, this one piece is particularly
valuable because it is possibly the most complete among the recovered furniture
fittings of the first millennium BC as a whole, which are normally heavily
fragmentary. The chair-back is dominated by large and rare single panel
with a winged sun-disc, a divine symbol repeated in smaller form in the upper
parts of most of the other panels. The terminal and central panels depict
images of noblemen picking blossoms from a lotus plant, a scene typical in
its genre and known from a number of similar pieces. Quite extraordinary,
on the other hand, is the miniature scene of the lower cross-piece, depicting
a chariot-hunt of wild bulls with an admirable balance between motion and
static, narration and composition.
All nine panels are carved in a style characteristic of Northern Syria,
a region which the Assyrian state took increasingly under control and from
which many luxury goods such as this example of precious furniture were imported,
be it in the form of gifts, tributes, war booty or, less likely, market
Photo source: Treasures of the Iraq Museum,
by Dr Faraj Basmachi, Baghdad 1975-76
5,000 years ago
27 years ago
Today - Stolen?
|Priceless statue is spotted on CNN,
but now is reported stolen. A Sumerian marble head of a woman from
Warka dated 3000 B.C., and measuring 20 cm high, has been widely reported
in recent days as one of the pieces missing from the Baghdad Museum. But
just days ago, this same piece may have been seen on CNN. In an article
published online April 21, 2003, by The Nation, Sonyote Waeohonsa, a lecturer
of Political Science at Silpakorn University, shares his reaction to footage
he saw on CNN showing the aftermath of the looting of the Iraq National
Museum. A portion of this account appears to contradict more recent reports:
a sigh of unfettered relief when he spotted the white marble head of
a Sumerian woman, considered one of the finest examples of ancient sculptures
still in existence. The sculpture is about 3,000 years old and was discovered
in Uruk, the largest urban centre of ancient Mesopotamia, known in modern
Iraq as Warka.
Report Stolen Objects
Objects and documents taken from museums
and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international
law. They are therefore stolen property, whether found in Iraq or other
nations. Anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing
a crime. Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law and under the
United States National Stolen Property Act. The Iraqi people, as well as
members of the Coalition forces and others, are warned not to handle these
artifacts. In particular, Americans are asked not to purchase or otherwise
trade in such objects as they belong to the nation of Iraq and are stolen
In addition to the well-reported
efforts made to protect cultural, religious and historic sites in Iraq,
CENTCOM has issued instructions to all troops inside Iraq to protect museums
and antiquities throughout Iraq. U.S. radio broadcasts throughout Iraq
are encouraging Iraqis to return any items taken and are providing instructions
on how to do so. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs
will help Iraqis and international experts in their efforts to restore
artifacts and the catalogs of antiquities that were damaged by looters.
A senior advisor in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs,
Ambassador John Limbert, will take the lead in this effort.
Secretary Colin L. Powell, April
Reporting the Theft of Cultural Property
To report the loss or theft of fine art or other cultural property,
contact your state or local police, or the FBI. You may use the link
ablove to the secure online Report Form to the FBI. Provide as complete
a physical description as possible, including any numbers, trademarks,
or other markings; color photograph(s); circumstances of loss or theft;
value of the item; history of the item if relevant; and any other pertinent
Police recommend using the Getty Object ID Checklist to describe lost
or stolen art. This is the standard method developed by the Getty
Information Institute. Please tell the police if you want the loss
or theft reported to the FBI or
on your behalf.
U.S. law enforcement: Forward complete details of the loss or theft,
including police report, to your INTERPOL State Liaison Office for forwarding
to the INTERPOL-U.S. National Central Bureau. INTERPOL publishes an International
Stolen Property Notice for a given item only if there is sufficient identification
information and if the item is either of substantial commercial or cultural
value, or was stolen under particularly serious circumstances.
More about the Getty Object ID Checklist
Object I.D., a service run by the Council for the Prevention of Art
Theft, is an international standard for describing art, antiques and antiquities
designed to combat art theft. Developed by the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1993,
it has since been adopted by major law enforcement agencies such as the
FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol; major museums, art trade groups and cultural
organizations; and insurers including AXA Art.
All collectors should clearly document
their objects. Carefully prepared records can be useful in managing your
collection, and essential in helping to recover lost or stolen art objects.
Based on the Getty Object ID Checklist, the following is a general list
of essential pieces of information that will help you to compile your own
records. Just print out one document for each object that you own and store
them in a safe place.
Who made the Object? This may be the name of a known individual (artist),
a company (e.g. Tiffany), or a cultural group (e.g. Hopi).
- Type of Object
(painting, sculpture, clock, mask, etc.).
Does the object have a title by which it is known and might be identified?
When was the object made? (e.g. 1893, early 17th century, Late Bronze
What is the size and/or weight of the object? Specify which unit of
measurement is being used (e.g. cm, in) and to which dimensions the measurement
refers (e.g. height, width, depth).
What materials is the object made of (e.g. brass, wood, oil on canvas).
Write a short description. What does the picture represent (e.g. landscape,
battle, still life). This can include additional information that helps
to identify the object (e.g. color, shape, where it was made).
Describe the condition of the object or attach a recent conservator¹s
- Distinguishing Features
Does the object have any physical characteristics that could help to
identify it (e.g. damage, repairs).
- Inscriptions and Markings
Are there any identifying markings, numbers or inscriptions on the object
(e.g. signature, dedication, title, maker's marks).
List ownership history if information is available. When did you buy
the object and from whom did you buy it?
(Every time your item is mentioned in print)
Give a complete citation: author, title, publication, page number, and
date. Include newspapers, if relevant.
- Purchase Price and Date of Purchase
List purchase price or value of latest appraisal.