Iraqi government recovers 6,000 looted artifacts

As Daniel Cassady reports for Art News, more than 6,000 historical artifacts smuggled out of Iraq after the fall of Mosul in 2014 have been recovered, according to the publication Al-Monitor

The announcement was made by Ali Obaid Shalgam, the head of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, during a conference on Iraqi cultural heritage in the Mosul province. 

A majority of the recovered works were stolen by the Islamic State beginning in 2014. During their control of Iraq and parts of Syria, ISIS destroyed, damaged, or looted artifacts and historical landmarks, including mosques, shrines, churches, ancient and medieval monuments, and libraries. 

Among their targets was the Mosul Cultural Museum, the second largest museum in Iraq. The museum, which lost a library of more than roughly 28,000 books and manuscripts, as well as objects in their holdings, is currently under renovation with assistance from the Smithsonian Institution, the Louvre, and the World Monuments Fund. It is expected to reopen in 2026. 

In his address, Shalgam said that the Iraqi government has been working with foreign governments and international bodies to recover missing artifacts, though he did not elaborate on which countries were participating. 

Since 2008, the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, a multinational initiative, has sought the return tens of thousands of historical artifacts that were smuggled out of the country following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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