Antiquities Under Siege; Lawrence Rothfield
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Photographs from “Catastrophe! The Looting of Iraq’s Past” on exhibit the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Lawrence Rothfield, director of the Cultural Policy at the University of Chicago, has written a book about artifacts affected by the Iraq War. Rothfield is also leading a panel discussion on the subject in Washington to mark the fifth anniversary of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. ()
Objects recovered by the police in Baghdad as of June 2004 included more than 2,000 clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions. (Micah Garen / Four Corners Media)
In May 2004, Iraqi archaeologist Abdul Amir Hamdani and Iraqi police inspected a looted archaeological site. (Micah Garen / Four Corners Media)
The Warka Vase, a masterpiece of early Mesopotamian art, was stolen during the looting of the museum and was returned damaged two months later. When looters stole the Warka vase, they broke the main body of the vase away from its display case, leaving the modern plaster base (here shown in May 2003). (John Russell)
Conservators at Iraq’s National Museum work to to reconstruct the Warka Vase. (Donny George)
Umma is one of the ancient southern sites that was heavily looted. The Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage excavated at Umma from 1996 until 2003. The destruction of this excavated temple facade at Umma was caused by looters searching for bricks stamped with cuneiform inscriptions. (Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly)
This life-sized terra-cotta lion statue was one of many artifacts in the Iraq National Museum that was damaged during the April 2003 looting. This lion originally guarded the main doorway of a temple at Tell Harmal during the Old Babylonian period (ca. 1800 BC). (Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly)
One of the most devastating blows to the future understanding of archaeology in Iraq was the disarray and destruction of the offices and archives of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, shown in May 2003. (Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly)
In Syria, Alexandra Witsell measures and maps stratigraphy at the ancient site of Hamoukar. Unlike looters, archaeologists carefully record the horizontal and vertical locations of architecture, artifacts, and organic remains before removing anything from the ground. (Katharyn Hanson)
Looters running away from a helicopter patrol at the archaeological site of Isin, in southern Iraq, January 2004. (John Russell)