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Sacred Vase Among Items Returned to Iraq Museum

June 13, 2003|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — The sacred Vase of Warka, one of the most valuable artifacts of the Iraq National Museum collection, was returned unceremoniously Thursday in the trunk of a car.

The 5,000-year-old white limestone vase, the world's oldest carved-stone ritual vessel, was handed over with other looted items, U.S.-led coalition forces said in a statement. Three men gave the pieces to security staff at the central Baghdad museum, a gesture that could reassure archeologists worried about Iraq's ancient treasures.

"This is one of the most important pieces from the Baghdad museum, and I am delighted it has been returned," said Pietro Cordone, senior advisor on culture for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the formal name of the occupation forces.

Cordone, a former Italian diplomat, was at the museum when the men arrived unexpectedly and he thanked them personally.

The vase, still pictured on the Interpol Web site for missing artworks, is widely studied in art history and archeology. It depicts Sumerians offering gifts to the goddess Innin as well as scenes of daily life in the ancient city of Uruk. It was carved about the time that the city's Sumerians were inventing writing.

A team of German archeologists discovered the vase in 1940 near the city of Samawah in southern Iraq.

The coalition's statement said the vase was returned "safely" but did not give details on its condition.

Once the home of rare Islamic texts and priceless, millenniums-old collections from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, the national museum was plundered in the lawlessness and chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad on April 9.

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