Court decides that German museum has right to ancient artefact from Iraq
It is sad when common sense doesn’t prevail in simple matters like an ancient artefact that belongs to a country. Well, in this case the object of desire is a 3,000-year-old Assyrian gold tablet. The tablet was excavated about 100 years ago from the Ishtar Temple in Iraq by German archaeologists. The item was then taken to the German museum called Vordeasiatiches and then disappeared.
Traces of the item revealed that Flamenbaum, a survivor from Auschwitz, acquired the tablet by trading with a Russian soldier - suggesting that the tablet was a spoilt of war – and took it to the US.
Sadly, the New York court had just decided that the item should be returned to the ‘rightful’ owner – the German museum, because the US doesn’t recognize the right of conquest. The attorney of Flamenbaum criticized the decision claiming that the whole of the US is a result of conquest. Nobody of course mentioned that initially the relic was stolen from its country, Iraq. But of course the court case wasn’t too concerned with that.
The irony is that if any kind of relic is found today in any western country, it is illegal to take it out of the country as it becomes part of the heritage of the country in which it is found. Yet it seems that if someone does manage to get an artefact out of the country, it is considered perfectly ok to retain the items in a new country, or a previous country it travelled to, rather than return it to the country of origin. Sounds like it is time for some changes to the law!
By John Black