Lost Treasures From Iraq

Statement by the Oriental Institute's Iraq Museum Working Group concerning the Looting and Destruction of Iraq's Museums, Libraries, and Archaeological Sites:

We, the undersigned, condemn the looting of Iraq's archaeological museums, the destruction of its libraries, and the damage done to its archeological and historical monuments and sites during and after the invasion of Iraq in March and April of this year. These losses are devastating not only to Iraq's sense of its own history and identity, but also to human heritage as a whole.

In the face of this unprecedented destruction, we demand immediate action from the authorities currently in control of Iraq to protect Iraq's archaeological and cultural heritage and to fully implement all requirements set out by the "Hague Convention on the protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict".

Assessments of the scope of the damage to archaeological and historical sites, museums, and libraries in Iraq have to be organized by internationally recognized cultural institutions such as UNESCO. Such efforts should accept assistance from any scholar who is willing to participate, regardless of his nationality. Cooperative international response to these conditions is imperative in view of the magnitude of the task and to reassure the world community that these actions are impartial and free of political manipulation by any party. Cooperation and exchange of information between participating scholars must not be impeded by agencies of any government.

We express our willingness to cooperate with international efforts to recover looted Iraqi antiquities, manuscripts, books and other cultural properties, and to assist our Iraqi colleagues. Many of us have appropriate experience and knowledge, are eager to contribute, and are especially eager to reaffirm the bonds of international scholarship. We offer our assistance and participation to legitimate international efforts to assess and repair the damage to Iraqi cultural property.

Chicago, May 26, 2003

Iraq Museum Working Group:
  • Charles E. Jones (Research Archivist, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Nicholas Kouchoukos (Archaeology, Department of Anthropology)
  • Dr. Clemens Reichel (Research Associate, Oriental Institute)
  • John Sanders (Senior Research Associate, Head of Computer Laboratory, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Matthew Stolper (Assyriology, Oriental Institute; Chairman of the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World)

  • The following faculty and staff members of the Oriental Institute and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) of the University of Chicago have co-signed this statement:

  • Dr. Abbas Alizadeh (Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Robert Biggs (Assyriology, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Fred M. Donner (Near Eastern History, Oriental Institute and NELC)
  • Prof. Peter Dorman (Egyptology, Oriental Institute; Chairman of NELC)
  • Dr. Gertrud Farber (Research Associate (Sumerology), Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Walter Farber (Assyriology; Curator of Oriental Institute Tablet Collection)
  • Prof. Stephen Harvey (Egyptian Archaeology, Oriental Institute)
  • Carrie Hritz (CAMEL Laboratory, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Jan Johnson (Egyptology, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Wadad Kadi (Islamic Thought, NELC)
  • Dr. Farouk Mustafa (Arabic, NELC)
  • Prof. John Perry (Persian Studies, NELC)
  • Prof. Martha Roth (Assyriology, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Seth Richardson (Ancient Near East History, Oriental Institute)
  • Dr. Gil Stein (Director, Oriental Institute)
  • Dr. Emily Teeter (Curator of Egyptian and Nubian Antiquities, Oriental Institute Museum)
  • Jason Ur (CAMEL Laboratory, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Theo van den Hout (Hittitology, Oriental Institute)
  • Dr. Magnus Widell (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Oriental Institute)
  • Dr. Karen Wilson (Museum Director, Oriental Institute)
  • Alexandra Witsell (AARB, Oriental Institute)
  • Prof. Chris Woods (Sumerology, Oriental Institute)
  • If you are a member of the University of Chicago (faculty, staff) and wish to co-sign this statement, contact Clemens Reichel ( to have your name added to this list. Please include your academic title and affiliation with the university.


    revised: December 4, 2003
    created: May 28, 2003
    Copyright © 2003 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago