Shortly after the Gulf War in 1990-1991, an international panel of archaeologists, historians and philologists started working with Iraqi authorities to contain the phenomenon of the illegal trade in antiquities originating from museums and sites in Iraq, an issue that up to that time had never been so serious.
The first result of this cooperation with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq was the publication of three papers, respectively by the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (formerly The American Association for Research in Baghdad: Gibson, McGuire; McMahon, Augusta. Lost Heritage: Antiquities Stolen from Iraq's Regional Museums, Fascicle 1. Chicago; 1992, 1 volume (xii + 54 pages [illustrated]): American Association for Research in Baghdad, 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago IL 60637, USA.), by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (Baker, H. D.; Matthews, R. J.; Postgate, J. N., Lost Heritage: Antiquities Stolen from Iraq's Regional Museums. Fascicle 2, London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq; 1993, 1 volume (viii + 153 pages [illustrated]). ISBN: 0-903472-14-7.) and by the Institute for Cultural Studies of Ancient Iraq of the Kokushikan University (Fujii, Hideo; Oguchi, Kazumi, Lost Heritage: Antiquities Stolen from Iraq's Regional Museums. Fascicle 3, Tokyo: Institute for Cultural Studies of Ancient Iraq, Kokushikan University; 1996, 1 volume (xxi + 43 pages [illustrated]). The three papers are now available online at http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/lh.html.
Since 2000, the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l'Asia turned to the data collected in these publications with the intent of creating a constantly updatable database of the antiquities looted from regional museums in Iraq. Thanks to the valuable aid provided by the Carabinieri corps’ Artistic Heritage Protection Unit, a database, albeit with limited access, was compiled and put online in the years that followed.
This first stage of the B.R.I.L.A. project exclusively concerned the objects looted from Iraq’s regional museums (Basra, Kufa, Babylon, Maysam, Qadissiya, Assur, Kirkuk, Dohuk and Suleimaniyeh) up to 2002: as it is well known, Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in fact suffered no damage during or after the first invasion of American troops in the country. Although the search for looted objects was conducted several times and in a very thorough manner, the available data is extremely incomplete: of the approximately 3500 objects that were declared stolen by Iraqi authorities up to 2002, satisfactory documentation was obtained for about only 730 of them, which is collected and provided here. In the database that has finally been made available to the public, the initial information on the individual objects collected in the previous publications has been partly revised and updated when additional information has been found. In any case, this is only a preliminary work: these are simply records, and not a comparative study, that we anyhow consider useful for its documental – albeit partial - value. This work was interrupted when the recent Gulf War broke out; since then, yet another sad chapter has been written in the history of Iraq’s cultural heritage.
In this section, the first BRILA database, updated to 2002, is available for consultation.
A catalogue compiled by the Carabinieri in September-October 2003 contains a list of objects that were stolen from the Baghdad Museum: records relative to recovered objects (which are actually very few) illustrated above have been eliminated from this original list. Everyone is invited to report updates on the pieces included in the lists that follow.
Another list of objects that were recovered thanks to the experts from the Centro Scavi di Torino in Baghdad’s suq during the summer-autumn of 2003 was prepared in Baghdad in only five days (December 2003) on the museum’s premises in conditions that, as one may imagine, were quite precarious. Therefore, as it was necessary to decide how to document all of the recovered objects as quickly as possible (mostly cylinder seals and beads), it was decided to compile a simple list of the recovered pieces, with the IM number still visible.
Photographs, on the other hand, were taken only of those pieces that no longer possessed (and perhaps never possessed) the museum’s inventory number.