Lifestyle & Belief

Babylonian bricks stolen from Iraq museum


Visitors walk through the newly renovated Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon, some 100 kms south of Baghdad, on November 27, 2008. Fragments of bricks, engraved with cuneiform characters thousands of years old, lie mixed with the rubble and sandbags left by the US military on the ancient site of Babylon in Iraq. Archaeologists say a year of terracing work and 18 months of military presence, with tanks and helicopters, have caused irreparable damage to one of the cradles of civilisation.



Iraq's Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Liwa Sumaism has said the number of Babylonian brick fragments stolen from the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way at the Nebuchadnezzar Museum is close to 400.

According to ArtInfo, the new number is much higher than the original estimate, which was thought to be 33. The Nebuchadnezzar Museum has been closed since 2003, just before the US invaded Iraq, and some of its collection was moved to Baghdad's National Museum.

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Many of the missing fragments, however, are thought to have been stolen from a storage space at their original home.

The stolen bricks were glazed blue and have golden images of bulls, lions and dragons on them, reported The Art Newspaper. They were excavated starting in 1900 by German archaeologists, meaning many were taken to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Parts of the city entrance that the bricks made up were reconstructed with modern replicas by Saddam Hussein.

A criminal investigation into the bricks' disappearance is now underway. Sumaism noted that archaeological sites and museums in Iraq need at least 1,000 more guards to ensure security.