Dec 22 2012
By Basem al-Rikabi
Azzaman, December 22, 2012
Police in the southern city of Nasiriya say they have seized 131 Mesopotamian artifacts in two raids on what they describe as “smuggler hideouts” and have arrested two “smugglers” in their raids.
According Radhi al-Zarkani, assistant police chief in the Province of Dhiqar, 40 artifacts were seized in the first raid.
He said the police, following intelligence reports, raided a car in which the driver had hid the ancient pieces within the doors of his vehicle.
Dhiqar, of which Nasiriya is the provincial capital, is among the richest Iraqi provinces in antiquities. It is the site of the Sumerian civilization which flourished in southern Iraq some 5,000 years ago.
Zarkani said another team of his police officers raided a house in Nasiriya where they found 91 artifacts. The pieces were seized and the owner of the house arrested, he added.
“In total we have recently seized 91 pieces,” he added.
The police gave no details about the nature of the artifacts, antiquity, value or significance. They said they would pass them to the Iraq Museum for analysis.
Dhiqar is dotted with ancient mounds where ancient riches are buried under thin levels of sand and earth.
Mud bricks were ancient Iraqis construction material of choice.
The Antiquities Department says it does not have enough guards to protect more than 10,000 ancient sites which it has listed as archaeologically significant across the country.
Smugglers are said to be active, particularly in Dhiqar and the northern Province of Nineveh, the site of the ancient Assyria and its fabulous capitals of Nimrud, Ashur, Nineveh and Dur Sharruki (Khorsabad).
The absence of appropriate protection has encouraged smugglers to conduct large-scale illegal digging of some of the country’s most famous sites.
Tens of thousands of artifacts are said to have been removed from Iraqi ancient sites through illegal digging.
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