The Lady of Warka

Topics: Theft, Iraq, Looting Pages: 5 (1759 words) Published: February 27, 2013
We consider Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” to be one of the greatest works of art known to man. People discuss how perfectly proportionate her face is, and how great a portrayal of the human face it is. However, no one comments on a similar work of art from a much, much earlier time; “The Lady of Warka”. The Lady of Warka is considered to be the “Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia”. It is one of the earliest relief sculptures known to man (Iraqi Artifact, 1). This wonderful artifact teaches a great deal about how rich in culture and literacy the Mesopotamian civilization was. The Lady of Warka is a life-size sculpture of a woman’s face dating back around 5000 years (Banerjee, 1). It is shocking how detailed and accurate the face is, considering the time when it was made. Though not important as a functional item, the Lady of Warka is very useful educationally. Not only does it help us learn more about ancient Mesopotamian arts and culture, but it also provides a great understanding of the development of art, particularly sculptures. In 2003, following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, chaos and looting took over the streets of Iraq. One of the places that were looted is the home of many ancient Iraqi artifacts including the Lady of Warka, the National Museum of Iraq. The theft of artifacts, though not always highly publicized, takes place quite frequently. The theft of these items is wrong as it denies people from all walks of life the chance to look into the past and understand the development and progress that humans have made. I believe that because of the instability of countries such as Iraq, artifacts such as the Lady of Warka, should be kept in an international museum in a stable country. This should be done to ensure that these artifacts are as safe as possible and that people from all over the world can come to see them.

This great work of art was discovered in the 1930s, in the town of Uruk (Warka), and is considered to be the greatest cultural achievement of the Mesopotamians. What struck historians the most was how detailed the artifact is. The sculpture included details not usually seen in sculptures so ancient. The parting of the woman’s hair, and the details of her earlobes were two of the most surprising details included in the sculpture (Parry, 1). In 2003, the artifact was looted from the National Museum of Iraq. Amongst other artifacts stolen, perhaps this was one of the greatest historical losses ever. Luckily, the artifact was found and returned to the museum by a joint U.S. military – Iraqi police force. People complained about something buried in a farmer’s yard, and the Iraqi police investigated it and discovered the sculpture broken and buried in a plastic bag. It is believed that the farmer bought it illegally and tried selling it, but due to the artifact’s importance and fame in the art world, no one wished to purchase it (Parry, 1). Though the artifact was recovered in pieces, it has since been restored.

The looting was such a massive loss to the art and history worlds that it became an international issue. In order to help ensure that the stolen artifacts were not smuggled internationally, many foreign museums promised Donny George, director of the National Museum of Iraq that they would not purchase Iraqi artifacts until they were returned to the museum. However, George insisted that the risk of illegal trading was still quite high as the artifacts could be traded to private collectors who are not often questioned. Many foreign governments, organizations, and institutions were involved in the recovery of artifacts. The United States Congress and the Italian government both donated sizeable amounts of money after the looting to the museum in order to return it to its original state. Another example of the international attention given to this issue is that the FBI, Interpol, and UNESCO volunteered to help the museum restore and recover artifacts that may have been smuggled internationally (Banerjee 1)....
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