Natural History Museum sets up unit to investigate unexplained phenomena

Natural History Museum sets up unit to investigate unexplained phenomena

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It is reassuring to see that there are still some brave scientists around willing to investigate the less conventional findings rather than simply placing them in the ‘too hard to solve’ basket – the Natural History Museum in London has made an announcement about a specialised department which has been likened to the well-known X-Files programme.

The unit’s Identification and Advisory Service will be responsible for investigating a wide-range of unexplained phenomena, and so far they have been contending with so-called ‘space slime’, and a host of bizarre items discovered by the British public including bones resembling a dragon skull, round objects believed to be meteorite fragments, and a skull with long tusks believed to have belonged to the ice-age sabre tooth tiger.

The research team takes a scientific approach to all the submissions and so-far they have been able to solve many of the mysteries – the ‘dragon skull’ is the pelvis of a sea bird, the ‘sabre-tooth tiger’ is the skull of a Chinese Water Deer, and the meteorite fragment was in fact a solidified ball of aluminium foil.

However, one of the unexplained phenomena still has the team baffled – the mysterious slime discovered in a nature reserve in Somerset. The slime appeared at the same time as a meteor crashed to earth in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which has led many to believe that the strange substance has come from space.

An amateur photographer claimed he had captured a mysterious object whizzing through the sky above the park on camera. The object appeared to be a meteor, although this was not confirmed by astronomers.

The London museum's Angela Marmont Centre (AMC) for UK Biodiversity, which houses the Identification and Advisory Service, was tasked with investigating the mysterious slime, with the aim of establishing whether it had fallen from space, or if its origins were rather more terrestrial. Laboratory tests have so far failed to find just what it could be - and where it had come from.

Scientists from the unit extracted DNA from the jelly and tried to match it against that of birds and frogs, without success. This rules out the theory that the slime is unfertilized frog spawn.

“The slime is still a genuine mystery,” said Chesca Rogers from the AMC. “There are stories in folklore that link it with meteor sightings. Some people think it might be unfertilised frog spawn, others think it is a fungus, or a slime mould or that it is plant related. None of the tests we have done so far have told us anything conclusive.”

Every year the museum receives around 10,000 inquiries from the public, who are encouraged to bring their finds to the Museum for examination.

Across the two floors of the Jane G. Pisano Dinosaur Hall, you’ll roam under, around, and above 20 mounted skeletons of the largest and most interesting dinosaurs and sea creatures to ever inhabit prehistoric Earth. Examine over 300 fossils, just like real paleontologists, to study dinosaurs and their ancient world.

Learn how big dinosaurs could get.

Look down on the T. rex trio from the balcony of the Dinosaur Hall.

Smithsonian's Natural History Museum to reopen next week

The Smithsonian Institution announced on Wednesday that the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., will reopen next week after more than a year of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will reopen to the public Friday, June 18, with new hours, free timed-entry passes and health-and-safety procedures in place," the organization said in a press release.

During the initial reopening phase, the museum will be open from Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cafés, stores and the second floor of the museum will remain closed with a few exceptions, including the Harry Winston Gallery where the Hope Diamond is displayed.

“After 15 months, we’re excited to welcome visitors back to the museum safely,” Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of National Museum of Natural History, said in the release. “We’ve missed the millions of people who come here every year to deepen their appreciation for science and the natural world and look forward to inspiring them once again.”

Visitors over the age of 2 must wear a mask inside at all times, groups larger than six are prohibited and social distancing will be enforced by museum staff members.

Lockers to store personal items will not be available.

A new exhibition will be debuting along with the reopening of the museum titled "Unsettled Nature: Artists Reflect on the Age of Humans."

The Smithsonian says the exhibit "will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the unparalleled, ubiquitous and still-growing mark that humanity is making on the world through 16 works of art, asking visitors to consider how they are shaping the planet and what world they envision for the future."

The Smithsonian previously announced in May that it planned on reopening all of its museums this summer after having closed them down in March of last year. The reopenings will be staggered and spread out from June 10 to Aug. 27.

The Smithsonian Design Museum and National Museum of the American Indian in New York are also scheduled to reopen this month. The National Museum of African Art, National Museum of Asian Art Freer Gallery, Air and Space Museum and Smithsonian Institution Building are scheduled to reopen in July.

15 Historical Proofs of the Bible

The Bible is essentially a religious history. Even those who wrote the Bible made it clear it was not a secular history, even though secular events are referred to. It is a book about God and his relationship with man. That cannot be proven or dis-proven logically. It is a spiritual matter.

However, people and events mentioned in the Bible can be found in the historical writings of other nearby countries. Also, historical records of the Israelite nations other than the Bible prove the history of the Bible is correct.

The earliest records of the Israelites were written on papyrus, rather than clay tablets that were used by other cultures at that time. Many of those papyri have been destroyed. And yet proof of Biblical events exist.

1. The Smithsonian Department of Anthropology is reported to have said this about the Bible (referring to history, not spiritual teachings.)

“Much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed. This is not to say that names of all peoples and places mentioned can be identified today, or that every event as reported in the historical books happened exactly as stated.” (

Here's part of a letter from the National Geographic

I referred your inquiries to our staff archeologist, Dr. George Stuart. He said that archaeologists do indeed find the Bible a valuable reference tool, and use it many times for geographical relationships, old names and relative chronologies. On the enclosed list, you will find many articles concerning discoveries verifying events discussed in the Bible.

National Geographic Society, Washington D.C.

Historical Events from Abraham to Solomon.

2. In 1990 Frank Yurco, an Egyptologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago used hieroglyphic clues from a monolith known as the Merneptah Stele to identify figures in a Luxor wall relief as ancient Israelites. The stele itself, dated to 1207 B.C. celebrates a military victory by the Pharaoh Merneptah. “Israel is laid waste” it reads. This lets us know the Israelites were a separate people more than 3,000 years ago. (for more on the steleh)

3. Some historians insist the Canaanites were a dying culture when the Israelites gradually moved in and took over their lands. This actually supports the Bible which has God saying to the Israelites

" And I will send hornets [despair] before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee until thou be increased, and inherit the land." Exodus 23:28-30 King James Authorized

Detractors of the Bible claim that there is little proof of the use of slaves in Egypt or of the Exodus, of the conquering of the Canaanites by the Israelites or (prior to 1993) of King David’s reign. But the absence of proof is not proof of absence. It only takes one find to change that picture.

4. For example, until 1993 there was no proof of the existence of King David or even of Israel as a nation prior to Solomon. Then in 1993 archeologists found proof of King David's existence outside the Bible. At an ancient mound called Tel Dan, in the north of Israel, words carved into a chunk of basalt were translated as "House of David" and "King of Israel". This proved that David was more than just a legend.

5. In 2005 Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar found King David's palace relying on the Bible as one of her many tools. She says:

“What is amazing about the Bible is that very often we see that it is very accurate and sometimes amazingly accurate.” (from Using the Bible As Her Guide)

Fourth Era: Historical Events From Solomon to the End of the Old Testament

6. R.D. Wilson who wrote “A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament” pointed out that the names of 29 Kings from ten nations (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and more) are mentioned not only in the Bible but are also found on monuments of their own time. Every single name is transliterated in the Old Testament exactly as it appears on the archaeological artifact – syllable for syllable, consonant for consonant. The chronological order of the kings is correct.

7. John M. Lundquist writes

“A significant example of the contribution ancient inscriptions have made to our understanding of the Old Testament is the Moabite Stone, also known as the Mesha Inscription.

Biblical Account

Mesha, king of the Moabites, those distant cousins of the Israelites who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea, is introduced in the Bible in the third chapter of 2 Kings [2 Kgs. 3] as a vassal to the King of Israel, about 849 B.C. With the death of Ahab, Mesha rebelled against this relationship. This prompted Ahab's son, Jehoram, to engage the alliance of Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, and the King of Edom in a military campaign against Mesha. With the help of prophetic advice from Elisha, the alliance was able to gain a victory over the Moabites. Mesha retreated behind the walls of his citadel, Kir-hareseth, and it was there, upon one of these walls, that he sacrificed his first-born son as a burnt offering in order to invoke the wrath of his god, Chemosh, against Jehoram's army. The Bible tells us that the Israelites were so horrified by this act that they returned home. (See 2 Kgs. 3:27.)

This ends the biblical account of Mesha, and if it weren't for the discovery of the Moabite Stone in 1868 by a German missionary, the story would have ended there.

Moabite Record Confirming Biblical Account

The Moabite Stone is an inscription in the Moabite language, a Semitic language closely related to biblical Hebrew. The inscription, of about thirty-five lines, was chiseled into a piece of black basalt measuring about three feet tall by one-and-one-half feet wide. That inscription, dated approximately 830 B.C., was set up by King Mesha in a temple at Dhiban to commemorate his "victory" over the Israelites. The Moabite Stone, in fact, gives King Mesha's side of the story. As such it provides a rare glimpse from a genuinely ancient but non-biblical source of an incident in biblical history.

The overriding theme of the inscription is very familiar: that the deity, in this case Chemosh, guided Mesha in his trials and finally gave him victory. The inscription states that Chemosh had allowed King Omri of Israel to oppress Moab for many years because of the Moabites' sins. (See Near Eastern Religious Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. Walter Beyerlin, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978, pp. 237-40.) During this time, Omri and his followers had taken much land in Moab and fortified it. (The Bible itself does not mention these campaigns by northern kings-with the exception of the account already quoted from 2 Kgs. 3.) At that point, Chemosh turns his favor toward Mesha and instructs him to defeat the Israelites. Mesha follows instructions, defeats the Israelites, and then uses Israelite prisoners to make repairs on the temple of Chemosh at Dhiban.

From a historian's point of view, Mesha's account of his successful rebellion against Israelite domination can probably be given credibility. As we have already seen, the Israelite-Judahite-Edomite coalition against him in 849 B.C. was successfully rebuffed by the human sacrifice which Mesha offered to Chemosh on the wall of his citadel. (See 2 Kgs. 3.) What's more, if the date of 830 B.C. for the setting up of this monument is accurate, then Mesha's statement about the fate of the house of Omri would also be accurate, since we know that Omri's royal line was wiped out by Jehu in about 842 B.C. (See 2 Kgs. 9.) Thus, Mesha no doubt saw himself and his god, Chemosh, vindicated by events.

The fact that Israel's neighbors viewed their gods in the same light as Israel viewed the Lord, and the fact that certain biblical customs should also be found among some of these neighbors, should in no way disturb anyone. Perhaps the Moabites and others borrowed these customs from the Israelites, or, more probably, since the Moabites are descendants from Abraham's nephew Lot through the latter's daughter (see Gen. 19:37), there would be much in the way of religion and culture that they would share in common. One of the sobering facts that we learn from a study of the Bible during the period of the united and divided monarchies is that sometimes the worship of idols such as Chemosh appears to have been more popular among the Israelites than the worship of the Lord himself. (See 1 Kgs. 11:7 1 Kgs. 19:18 2 Kgs. 17 2 Kgs. 21 1 Ne. 1:19-20.) The Moabite Stone gives us a picture of such an idol as one of his native adherents would have viewed him.

Facts 8-11: Ancient Inscriptions confirming Assyrian Kings' Siege of Jerusalem and Nebuchadnezzar's Conquest

There are a number of other ancient inscriptions that have provided valuable insights into biblical history from a non-biblical perspective. Among these are the Gezar Calendar, the Samaria Ostraca, the Siloam Inscription, the Lachish Letters, and numerous Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions. (These can be examined in translation, with reference to the originals, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 2nd ed., Princeton: Princeton University, 1955, pp. 320-24 3rd ed., 1969, pp. 653-62.) Among the most important of these are the royal inscriptions of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings. We have inscriptions of the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib describing their sieges of Samaria in 721 and Jerusalem in 701, respectively, as well as inscriptions relating the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar's conquests of Jerusalem in the latter years of Judah's existence before the exile. (See Pritchard, 2nd ed., pp. 284-88 3rd ed., pp. 563-64.)

What value have such inscriptions added to our understanding of the Bible? In addition to providing new perspective, they "pinpoint events and . supply a wider view of the biblical past, discovering phenomena in ancient Israel not preserved in its literature." (See Gaalyahu Cornfeld, Archaeology of the Bible)"

From: Lundquist, John (August, 1983) The Value of New Textual Sources to the King James Bible.

The following information is taken from a site dedicated to discoveries made by archaeologists working in and around present day Jerusalem.

12. Ostraca (inscribed potsherds) Over 100 ostraca inscribed in biblical Hebrew (in paleo-Hebrew script) were found in the citadel of Arad. This is the largest and richest collection of inscriptions from the biblical period ever discovered in Israel. The letters are from all periods of the citadel's existence, but most date to the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. Dates and several names of places in the Negev are mentioned, including Be'er Sheva.

13. Among the personal names are those of the priestly families Pashur and Meremoth, both mentioned in the Bible. (Jeremiah 20:1 Ezra 8:33) Some of the letters were addressed to the commander of the citadel of Arad, Eliashiv ben Ashiyahu, and deal with the distribution of bread (flour), wine and oil to the soldiers serving in the fortresses of the Negev. Seals bearing the inscription "Eliashiv ben Ashiyahu" were also found.

Some of the commander's letters (probably "file" copies) were addressed to his superior and deal with the deteriorating security situation in the Negev. In one of them, he gives warning of an emergency and requests reinforcements to be sent to another citadel in the region to repulse an Edomite invasion. Also, in one of the letters, the "house of YHWH" is mentioned. For more information click here.

Fifth Era: Christ

What evidence do we have the he existed?

14. The Roman historian Tacitus writing between 115-117 A.D. had this to say:

"They got their name from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. That checked the pernicious superstition for a short time, but it broke out afresh-not only in Judea, where the plague first arose, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home." From his Annals, xv. 44.

Here is a pagan historian, hostile to Christianity, who had access to records about what happened to Jesus Christ.

15. Mention of Jesus can also be found in Jewish Rabbinical writings from what is known as the Tannaitic period, between 70-200 A.D. In Sanhedrin 43a it says:

"Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve. Forty days previously the herald had cried, 'He is being led out for stoning, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray and enticed them into apostasy. Whoever has anything to say in his defence, let him come and declare it.' As nothing was brought forward in his defence, he was hanged on Passover Eve."

That there is any mention of Jesus at all is unususal. As far as the Roman world was concerned, Jesus was a nobody who live in an insignificant province, sentenced to death by a minor procurator.

To conclude, there is plenty of historical proof that the Bible is historically accurate, much more than can be contained in this article.

Natural History Museum sets up unit to investigate unexplained phenomena - History


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When did Earth turn into an action-packed animal planet?

About 540 million years ago, life became considerably more dynamic. In a burst of activity called the Cambrian explosion, the planet transformed into a slithering, swimming, scuttling place.

Among countless new species were examples of animals with every body plan we recognise today. What triggered such a dazzling development?

Earth’s environment was in flux during the Cambrian period, and the Ediacaran period that came before it. Sea levels rose, and chemicals washed into the ocean. In the underwater world, evolution got to work. New creatures emerged that could move further than ever before – and change their environment by burrowing and building. Soon, the new species were living in every habitat across the length and breadth of the ocean.


After World War I, archaeologists from Europe and the United States began several excavations throughout Iraq. In an effort to keep those findings from leaving Iraq, British traveller, intelligence agent, archaeologist, and author Gertrude Bell began collecting the artefacts in a government building in Baghdad in 1922. In 1926, the Iraqi government moved the collection to a new building and established the Baghdad Antiquities Museum, with Bell as its director. [1] Bell died later that year the new director was Sidney Smith.

In 1966, the collection was moved again, to a two-story, 45,000-square-meter (480,000-square-foot) building in Baghdad's Al-Ṣāliḥiyyah neighborhood in the Al-Karkh district on the east side of the Tigris River. It is with this move that the name of the museum was changed to the Iraq Museum. It was originally known as the Baghdad Archaeological Museum.

Bahija Khalil became the director of the Iraq Museum in 1983. She was the first woman director [2] and she held that role until 1989.

Due to the archaeological riches of Mesopotamia, the museum's collections are considered to be among the most important in the world, and it has a fine record of scholarship and display. The British connection with the museum — and with Iraq — has resulted in exhibits always being displayed bilingually, in both English and Arabic. It contains important artefacts from the over 5,000-year-long history of Mesopotamia in 28 galleries and vaults.

The collections of The Iraq Museum include art and artefacts from ancient Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations. The museum also has galleries devoted to collections of both pre-Islamic and Islamic Arabian art and artefacts. Of its many noteworthy collections, the Nimrud gold collection—which features gold jewellery and figures of the precious stone that date to the 9th-century BCE—and the collection of stone carvings and cuneiform tablets from Uruk are exceptional. The Uruk treasures date to between 3500 and 3000 BCE. [1]

In the months preceding the 2003 Iraq war, starting in December and January, various antiquities experts, including representatives from the American Council for Cultural Policy asked the Pentagon and the UK government to ensure the museum's safety from both combat and looting. But no promises were made, and fortunately, the U.S. forces did not bomb the site, despite them bombing a number of uninhabited Iraqi archaeological sites.

On April 9, 2003, the last of the museum curators and staff left the museum. Iraqi forces engaged U.S. forces a few blocks away, as well as the nearby Special Republican Guard compound. Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz of the U.S. third Infantry Division declared that he "was unable to enter the compound and secure it since they attempted to avoid returning fire at the building. Sniper positions, discarded ammunition, and 15 Iraqi Army uniforms were later discovered in the building". The positions turned out to be museum arranged sandbags and protective foam support and mitigation barriers for large size artefacts, the uniforms and ammunition turning out to belong to the museum curators and staff (being reserve military personnel in state of war) and to the contrary to the U.S. statement, no traces of any serious engagement were detected anywhere in the museum and its surrounding yard. Iraqi staff as a protective measure had built a fortified wall along the western side of the compound, allowing concealed movement between the front and rear of the museum, and the U.S. forces could have secured the museum by simply encircling and isolating it preventing the looters from accessing the facility. [3]

Thefts took place between April 10 and 12, and when a number of museum staff returned to the building on April 12, they fended off further attempts by looters to enter the museum and had to wait till April 16 for the deployment of the U.S. forces around the museum. A special team headed by Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos initiated an investigation on April 21. His investigation indicated that there were three separate thefts by three distinct groups over the four days. While the staff instituted a storage plan to prevent theft and damage (also used during the Iran–Iraq War and the first Gulf War), many larger statues, steles, and friezes had been left in the public galleries, protected with foam and surrounded by sandbags. [4] Forty pieces were stolen from these galleries, mostly the more valuable ones. Of these only 13 had been recovered as of January 2005, including the three most valuable: the Sacred Vase of Warka (though broken in fourteen pieces, which was the original state it was found in when first excavated), the Mask of Warka, and the Bassetki Statue. [3]

According to museum officials, the looters concentrated on the heart of the exhibition: "the Warka Vase, a Sumerian alabaster piece more than 5,000 years old a bronze Uruk statue from the Akkadian period, also 5,000 years old, which weighs 660 pounds and the headless statue of Entemena. The Harp of Ur was torn apart by looters who removed its gold inlay." [5] Among the stolen artefacts is the bronze Bassetki Statue, a life-size statue of a young man, originally found in the village Basitke in the northern part of Iraq, an Akkadian Empire piece that goes back to 2300 B.C. and the stone statue of King Schalmanezer, from the eighth century B.C. [6]

In addition, the museum's above-ground storage rooms were looted. Approximately 3,100 excavation site pieces (jars, vessels, pottery shards, etc.) were stolen, of which only 3,000 have been recovered. The thefts did not appear to be discriminating for example, an entire shelf of fakes was stolen, while an adjacent shelf of much greater value was undisturbed. [3]

The third occurrence of theft was in the underground storage rooms. The thieves attempted to steal the most easily transportable objects, which had been intentionally stored in the most remote location possible. Of the four rooms, the only portion disturbed was a single corner in the furthest room, where cabinets contained 100 small boxes containing cylinder seals, beads, and jewelry. Evidence indicated that the thieves possessed special master keys to the cabinets but dropped them in the dark. Instead, they stole 10,000 small objects that were lying in plastic boxes on the floor. Of them, only 2,500 have approximately been recovered. [3]

One of the most valuable artifacts looted was a headless stone statue of the Sumerian king Entemena of Lagash. The Entemena statue, "estimated to be 4,400 years old, is the first significant artifact returned all the way from the United States and by far the most important piece found outside Iraq. American officials declined to discuss how they recovered the statue." [7] [8] The statue of the king, located in the center of the museum's second-floor Sumerian Hall, weighs hundreds of pounds, making it the heaviest piece stolen from the museum – the looters "probably rolled or slid it down marble stairs to remove it, smashing the steps and damaging other artifacts." [7] [8]

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the recovery of the statue of King Entemena of Lagash on July 25, 2006, in the United States again. The statue was returned to the Iraq government. [9] It was discovered in the United States with the help of Hicham Aboutaam, an art dealer in New York. [9]

International reaction to the looting Edit

The U.S. government was criticised for doing nothing to protect the museum after occupying Baghdad. [10] Dr Irving Finkel of the British Museum said the looting was "entirely predictable and could easily have been stopped." [11] Martin E. Sullivan, chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property, and U.S. State Department cultural advisers Gary Vikan and Richard S. Lanier resigned in protest at the failure of US forces to prevent the looting. [12]

The extent of the looting of The Iraq Museum has been disputed. Based on a miscommunication by the first crews on the scene, and the empty display cases in the main galleries that in most cases had held objects which museum curators had removed before the First Gulf War and invasion, news organizations for weeks reported that as much as 170,000 catalogued lots (501,000 pieces) had been looted. The accurate figure was around 15,000 items, including 5,000 extremely valuable cylinder seals.

On April 12, 2003, The Associated Press reported: "The famed Iraq National Museum, home of extraordinary Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections and rare Islamic texts, sat empty Saturday – except for shattered glass display cases and cracked pottery bowls that littered the floor."

On April 14, National Public Radio's Robert Siegel announced on All Things Considered: "As it turned out, American troops were but a few hundred yards away as the country's heritage was stripped bare."

Reacting to the loss, French President Jacques Chirac on April 16, 2003, declared the incident "a crime against humanity." [ citation needed ]

When asked why the U.S. military did not try to guard the museum in the days after the invasion succeeded, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "If you remember, when some of that looting was going on, people were being killed, people were being wounded . It's as much as anything else a matter of priorities." Civil Affairs expert William Sumner, who was tasked with handling arts, monuments and archives, explained that the postwar Civil Affairs planners "didn't foresee the marines as going out and assigning marine units as security . The issue of archaeological sites was considered a targeting problem," to be dealt with by those flying bombing missions. [13] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking about the museum's looting, said "stuff happens" [14] and "to try to pass off the fact of that unfortunate activity to a deficit in the war plan strikes me as a stretch", and described the period of looting in general as "untidiness". Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "The United States understands its obligations and will be taking a leading role with respect to antiquities in general but this museum in particular.", but all such promises were only partially honoured considering the staggering increase in Iraqi archaeological site looting during the U.S. occupation period of Iraq.

Two weeks after the museum thefts, Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, General Director Research Studies for the Board of Antiquities in Iraq, stated of the looting, "It's the crime of the century because it affects the heritage of all mankind". After the U.S. Marines set up headquarters in Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, Dr Youkhanna confirmed that he personally went there to plead for troops to protect the Museum's onsite collection, but no guards were sent for another three days.

Attempts to recover lost items Edit

A few days later, agents of the FBI were sent to Iraq to search for stolen Museum property. UNESCO organized an emergency meeting of antiquities experts on April 17, 2003 in Paris to deal with the aftermath of the looting and its effects on the global art and antiquities market.

On April 18, 2003, the Baghdad Museum Project was formed in the United States with a proposal to assure the Iraq Museum every possibility of the eventual safe return of its collection, even if that is to take hundreds of years. Rather than focus only on law enforcement and the current antiquities market, the group set its mission as being to (1) establish a comprehensive online catalog of all cultural artifacts in the museum's collection, (2) create a virtual Baghdad Museum that is accessible to the general public over the Internet, (3) build a 3D collaborative workspace within the virtual Baghdad Museum for design and fundraising purposes, and (4) establish a resource center within the virtual Baghdad Museum for community cultural development. Various ancient items believed looted from the museum have surfaced in neighboring countries on their way to the United States, Israel, Europe, Switzerland, and Japan, and on even on eBay.

On May 7, 2003, U.S. officials announced that nearly 40,000 manuscripts and 700 artifacts belonging to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad were recovered by U.S. Customs agents working with museum experts in Iraq. Some looters had returned items after promises of rewards and amnesty, and many items previously reported missing had actually been hidden in secret storage vaults prior to the outbreak of war. On June 7, 2003, the U.S. occupation authorities announced that world-famous treasures of Nimrud were preserved in a secret vault in the Iraqi Central Bank. [15] The artifacts included necklaces, plates, gold earrings, finger and toe rings, bowls and flasks. But, around 15,000 and the tiny items including some of the most valuable artifacts on the antiquities markets remain missing.

The museum has been protected since its looting, but archaeological sites in Iraq were left almost entirely unprotected by coalition forces, and there has been massive looting, starting from the early days of the warfare and between summer 2003 and the end of 2007. Estimates are that 400–600,000 artifacts have been plundered. Iraqi sculptor Mohammed Ghani Hikmat spearheaded efforts by the Iraqi artist community to recover artworks looted from the museum. [16] Approximately 150 of Hikmat's pieces were stolen from the museum alone. [16] Hikmat's group has only recovered approximately 100 of the museum's works, as of September 2011. [16]

United States Marine Colonel, and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos led the search for these stolen artifacts for over five years from 2003. [17] Up to the year 2006 approximately 10,000 artifacts were recovered through his efforts. [18] [19] Antiquities recovered include the Warka Vase and the Mask of Warka. [18] [20]

At various Iraq reconstruction conferences, the Baghdad Museum Project gave presentations to the reconstruction community advocating the preservation of Iraq's cultural heritage in rebuilding projects. On August 27, 2006, Iraq's museum director Dr. Donny Youkhanna fled the country to Syria, as a result of murder threats he and his family members had received from terrorist groups that were assassinating all remaining Iraqi intellectuals and scientists. [21] Youkhanna held the position of visiting professor in the anthropology department of Stony Brook State University of New York until his death in March 2011. [22]

On June 9, 2009, the treasures of the Iraq Museum went online for the first time as Italy inaugurated the Virtual Museum of Iraq. [23] On November 24, 2009, Google announced that it would create a virtual copy of the museum's collections at its own expense, and make images of four millennia of archaeological treasures available online, free, by early 2010. [24] [25] It is unclear the extent by which Google's effort overlaps with Italy's previous initiative. Google's Street View service was used to image much of the museum's exhibit areas and, as of November 2011, these images are online.

In 2017, forty ancient Iraqi artefacts drawn from the Iraq Museum and spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic Age to the Parthian Period, were shown alongside contemporary artworks at the Venice Biennale. [26] Most of these objects had never previously left Iraq, excluding a few that were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the Museum. Commissioned by Ruya Foundation, the exhibition 'Archaic' attracted over 5,500 visitors during the preview week of the 57th Biennale, and was critically acclaimed by the press. [27] [28] [29]

The museum has opened its doors only partially since September 1980 during the Iran-Iraq War. Since the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, it has opened only rarely, opened on July 3, 2003 for several hours for a visit by journalists and Coalition Provisional Authority head J. Paul Bremer, as a signal that things were returning to normal. In December 2008, the museum was opened for a photo opportunity for Ahmad Chalabi, who returned a number of artifacts supposedly handed in to him by Iraqis. The latest opening occurred on February 23, 2009, at the behest of Iraqi prime minister Maliki, to demonstrate that things were returning to normal. Many archaeological officials protested against this opening, arguing that conditions were not yet safe enough to put the museum at risk the museum's director was fired for airing her objections.

In a ceremony to mark the occasion, Qahtan Abbas, Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister, said that only 6,000 of the 15,000 items looted from the museum in 2003 had been returned. [30] And an estimated 600,000 archaeological pieces were looted by groups and militias allied with the United States since 2003, according to a book published in 2009. [31] In September 2011 Iraqi officials announced the renovated museum will permanently reopen in November, protected by new climate control and security systems. The United States and Italian governments have both contributed to the renovation effort. [32]

Official reopening Edit

On February 28, 2015 the museum was officially reopened by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. [33] The museum also has items taken from the Mosul Museum, as ISIS has taken it over. [ citation needed ]

On September 7, 2010, the Associated Press reported that 540 looted treasures were returned to Iraq. [34] [35] [36]

638 stolen artifacts were returned to the Iraq Museum after they were located in the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. [37]

On January 30, 2012, a 6,500-year-old Sumerian gold jar, the head of a Sumerian battle axe and a stone from an Assyrian palace were among 45 relics returned to Iraq by Germany. Up to 10,000 of the Iraq Museum pieces are still missing, said Amira Eidan, general director of the museum at the time of the recovery. [38]

The Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium, a 6,210-square-foot gallery, will introduce visitors to the extraordinary variety of Earth’s most diverse and abundant animal groups through large-scale models, interactive exhibits, and live insects, with special sections on insects of New York City and human health.

The Butterfly Vivarium will be a new, 3,152-square-foot year-round living exhibit featuring free-flying butterflies in a variety of “environments” and opportunities to use interactive microscopes, discover the butterfly life cycle, and interact with butterfly experts.

Collections Core

The Collections Core, which will house approximately 4 million specimens from the Museum’s scientific collections, will feature observation points where, for the first time, visitors will be able to see into areas where students and researchers from all over the world can access scientific specimens.

Education Zones

State-of-the-art education spaces in the Gilder Center will include new classrooms within a Middle School Learning Zone and a High School Learning Zone, with adjacent renovated spaces in the existing Museum complex providing a Family Learning Zone and a Teacher Learning Zone.

Research Library and Learning Center

The Museum’s Library is being redesigned and re-situated for easier access by the public, with a new scholars’ reading room, exhibition alcove, group study room, and adult learning zone.

Invisible Worlds Theater

A new, immersive theater in the Gilder Center will reveal new frontiers of scientific research through scientific visualizations, letting visitors experience phenomena from across the natural world made accessible—and visible—through new imaging technologies.

June 26 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


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