Iraqi student Zeidoun Alkinani protesting the posession of ancient Iraqi artifacts by Germans at the Babylonian Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum of Berlin.
Prior to World War I, German archaeologists excavated large numbers of ancient artifacts across what is today Iraq and shipped them to Germany as part of a larger phenomenon of cultural pillage by European archaeologists across the Middle East that continued for decades.
In 2002, Iraqi officials asked for the return of the Gate, to no avail. A year later, the U.S. invaded the country.
via The Ajam Media Collective
Old school archeology was often a fancy name for “pillage” and “raiding historical artefacts”. While the mistakes of the past cannot be undone, I wonder what keeps museums from - like they do to fossils - replicating the historical object and simply returning the original to their place of origin. I understand the importance of those objects for historical research - however, I don’t see why the original must be in exposition, nor why it can’t be studied where it belongs.
And before someone argues that “they wouldn’t be protected in the middle east”, I regret to inform you that form of thinking is one of the most pernicious forms of imperialism: the idea that only the enlightened europeans would be able to “preserve history and culture” was endlessly used as a pretext for looting the cultural heritage of “savages” and “primitives” for centuries. Ironically, all the while those “enlightened preservers of culture” supressed traditional expressions, customs, artforms and manifestations.
Not to mention the more violent aspects of imperialism, that is.
Simply return the artefacts, Germany… Or somehow negotiate with Iraq to keep it with the compliance of the State that you took it from. Really, make a deal out of it. Iraq could use some sort of income from this lease of historical objects, don’t you think?
There is no reason to keep it as is other than saying “Look at this beautiful thing we stole. You could see it where it belongs, but it is ours now”. I know archaeologists meant no harm in their actions: it was a product of the then common mentality, and even those who defend the maintenance of this status quo are not evil or mean or anything. Just misguided, perhaps a bit stubborn.
Or I propose Iraq steals the Brandenburger Tör in exchange, dunno. That would certainly make archaeologists change their mind about historical artefacts being taken away by force and corruption. Just my two cents