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The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia Hardcover – May 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1ST edition (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810958724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810958722
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

At once heartbreaking and inspiring, this remarkable art book seeks to document what was lost when 15,000 objects at Baghdad's Iraq Museum were lost in the 2003 war and the ongoing art destruction. Treasures like the beautiful carved-ivory Mona Lisa of Nimrud survived ten centuries, only to fall victim to chaos and looters, some sent by international art dealers. The scholar authors show that the loss isn't local, it's everybody's. Iraq saw the birth of cities, epic verse, and codified religion; the lions guarding the New York Public Library are esthetic descendants of the smashed terracotta masterpieces of Baghdad. The book is a quickie history course, with 190 handsome color illustrations. Editorially, it's a bit rushed and confusing. But look: these aren't ivory-tower scholars, they're heroes putting themselves on the line to save humanity’s legacy. One had to be rescued from kidnappers with the help of Muqtada al-Sadr. Part of what you pay for the book goes to reconstruct the museum, and the book itself constitutes a kind of virtual museum preserving some works that are lost, and some that will be relocated, in part because it exists. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

As Baghdad fell in the spring of 2003, the thin deployment of coalition forces, it was said, made it impossible to protect cultural sites-which were immediately stripped-despite a legal obligation to preserve them. This book records the enormous, devastating losses (more than 15,000 pieces, only half of which have been recovered) of a major world museum, one that much of the world never had a chance to discover. Over 12 chapters, varied contributors lightly detail the depth and breadth of the collection, presenting highlights in 284 illustrations (most in color) from the collection as it was, with some asides about pieces that have been "reported missing" or are otherwise no longer there. Yet the text accompanying these abundant photos feels thin. A seven-page history of the museum is barely informative; the seven pages on "The Ravages of War and the Challenge of Reconstruction" feel woefully inadequate for a book of this title. With its lack of a unified perspective and the inclusion of previously published material, the book has a quickly-stitched-together feel. A percentage of the book's sales will be donated to the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage; the director of the Iraq Museum, Dr. Donny George, will tour the U.S. in June.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Karl Vogler on May 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I remember Secretary Rumsfeld getting a laugh when he tried putting the looting of Baghdad in proper perspective. "The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over," he said, "and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it twenty times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?'" Well, this book shouts out from the audience, "Yup!" and in doing so, puts a new face on the war in Iraq, and tells a story as ironic and poignant as what we saw in the Iraqi soccer team at the Olympics last summer. Here the team is a group of experts -- a kind of dream team of Iraqis, Americans, Italians and Brits -- each taking a turn as an expert witness in the most talked about art heist in history. Unlike most of the reporting at the time, this book doesn't presume you already know your Ancient Near Eastern and Islamic history. Ralph Solecki takes us to the very beginning and recalls his prehistoric discoveries in Northern Iraq, where we have possibly the earliest known evidence of human compassion. Harriet Crawford's coverage of the dawn of civilization brings the dawning realization that ancient Mesopotamia is a lot closer to life today than we thought. Paul Collins presents an account of the amazing developments in Sumer, illustrated with some of the most beloved pieces from the Iraq Museum. All right, the Iraqis invented human emotion, agriculture, cities, empires -- what else? Robert Biggs adds writing and literature, using macro lens close-ups and a cuneiform comparison chart.Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be an excellent volume that opens with the looting of the Iraq Museum at the beginning of the war and develops into an elegant and expert history of Mesopotamia spanning 60,000 years. Although the looting has been covered in newspapers and magazines, this is the only attempt to my knowledge to bring the topic to mainstream readers in book form. Archaeological sites throughout Iraq are still being looted daily, and a percentage of the royalties earned by this title will go to Iraq's State Board of Antiquities to help bring awareness and policing to the illicit trade in antiquities as well as help the Museum function again. The authors of each chapter comprise a formidable cadre of international archaeologists who have worked in Iraq sometimes for decades, and bring here the many voices needed to describe the long and fascinating history of Mesopotamia. The editors, Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster, really have done a fantastic job and have brought us a much needed book.

Beautifully designed and expertly written, this is a must for lovers of history and those with an interest in the cultural background of Iraq. Highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As discontent over the continued American presence and the mounting loss of lives of not only soldiers from this country but also from other supporting countries and certainly for the countless loss of civilian lives in Iraq, artists and writers are responding in kind to the woe of war. One of the saddest tragedies of the Iraq invasion was the decimation of the Iraq Museum of Baghdad. Many of the rarest of antiquities housed there are now reduced to dust while others suffered irreparable damage.

This fine book provides many illustrations of the collection of the Iraq Museum and with that, naturally, comes a timeline of civilization as we know it. The treasures are/were wondrous and the history as summarized by Milbry and William Polk, Selma Al-Radi, Angela Schuster, Zainab Bahrani, Usam Ghaidan, Anna Paolini, and Donny George in their fine essays should be required reading for all of us.

This fine and beautifully designed book marks a sad moment in our history, but it also provides an invaluable resource guide for those interested in the cradle of civilization that was Mesopotamia - aka Iraq! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, August 05
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By G.Reed on July 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This gorgeously illustrated and very detailed guide to the cultural atrocoties committed in April of 2003 is a masterpiece of literature. I am very glad that someone took the time to make a wonderful guide to this event. Flipping through the pages and looking at the many artifacts, one cannot help feeling a sense of melancholy. Looking at the gorgeous photos of the artifacts taken much before the looting occured, admiring them, and knowing that they are now damaged are destroyed is very unsettling, but it is wonderful that many of these brilliant archeologists, curators, and journalists took the time to create such a wonderful book to aknowledge the horrible event and show the world, even just the few people that actually buy the book and spend the time reading it. I truly enjoyed the book, which has so much information not just about the looting, but of the history of Mesopotamian, Persian and Islamic society, and the country of Iraq, specifically Baghdad, a beautiful, but tragic metropolis between the Tigris and Euphrates. The Land Between Two Rivers is brought back to life, for a brief, but beautiful, glimpse.
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