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"Ancient Assyrian Treasures Believed Found in Baghdad"
Ancient Assyrian treasures believed found in Baghdad
trefwoorden: Assyrië - schat - Bagdad - 8e eeuw BCE
Gold jewelry and other precious items recovered from royal tombs excavated at the ancient Assyrian capital of Nimrud.
That is believed to have been found where they were stashed for safety—in a vault below the Central Bank in Baghdad—before the onset of the Gulf War in 1990.
The 2,800-year-old treasures—which were characterized by one British archaeologist authority as the most significant discovery since Tutankhamun's treasures in 1923—are thought to be in three cases that had been sealed and secured in the underground vault. They were not found until last week because the basement of the bank was flooded, possibly deliberately by bank officials as a way to protect them from looters.
Emergency draining of the vault levels to gain access to Iraq's currency reserves, needed to pay salaries throughout the country, led to confirmation that the cases containing the Nimrud treasures were still intact.
"We have assistance from our friends at National Geographic who brought a pumping system and hired people to do this job for us free of charge," said Ahmed Muhammad, deputy governor of Iraq's Central Bank. "We thank them very much for this favor," he told the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer team which helped the bank drain the water from the basement.
The Ultimate Explorer team was in Baghdad to make news documentaries. The story of the Central Bank vault and recovery of the artifacts will be aired on Ultimate Explorer on MSNBC on July 6. The show will be presented by Lisa Ling, who was in Baghdad for part of the recovery effort.
"The bank was flooded right up to the ground level," said Gayle Young, director of story development, Ultimate Explorer. "It took three pumps and three weeks to get all the water out. At first the water kept flooding into the bank as fast as we pumped it out, but then it was discovered there was a valve that was open. Once we were able to shut that off we could drain all the water and the bank officials gained access to the vaults," Young said.
Young said the three boxes that contained the treasures were found in the seventh vault that was inspected, exactly where it was believed they would be. An archaeologist who placed the seals on the boxes confirmed that they had not been broken. "We expect that they will be opened tomorrow in the presence of experts and witnesses," Young said.
Muhammed said that he asked that at least two employees of the Central Bank observe the opening of the boxes, and the verification and listing of their contents. "The pieces belong to Iraq and not only to Iraqi Museum, and we at the Central Bank of Iraq feel we have a share in these boxes because we kept them for 14 years since 1990," he said.
Draining the water from the vaults became a priority, not only to determine if the treasures had escaped the looting that had taken place on the bank's upper floors during the recent war in Iraq, but because the authorities urgently needed to recover the country's cash reserves.
"We had a crisis situation where we needed to get access to the dinars in the vaults of the Central Bank to pay salaries, and thanks to National Geographic we've been able to open the vaults, to pump out the water, and pay the salaries," said Jacob Nell, advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Finance.
Cash was recovered, wet but intact. The "water was impregnated with soot and not as we feared with sewage, so it's just like they've been through the washing machine and the money is clean," Nel told the Ultimate Explorer team. "Thanks to National Geographic we were able to pump the water out of the vaults, which means that we could get access to the dinars that were stored there, which was essential for us to be able to pay April salaries throughout the country. "
Confirmation that the treasures of Nimrud are in safe custody will be a relief to the archaeological and art communities. There have been widespread fears that they were looted along with thousands of artifacts stripped from the Iraq Museum and archaeological sites in the chaos of the war in Iraq and its aftermath.
bron: National Geographic, 2 juni 2003