The major collection of Mesopotamian antiquities in the country of origin was founded by King Faisal I on the instigation of Gertrude Bell in 1926. New laws stipulated that excavated material should stay in Iraq and not be used to furnish museums and private collections abroad, as had been the custom. This policy ensured that the museum acquired material from all foreign-led excavations, as well as those conducted by native teams. The collections comprised not only prehistoric and Mesopotamian material but Hellenistic, Parthian, and Islamic artifacts. The latest spectacular finds housed there were the contents of royal tombs discovered in Nimrud (Kalhu).
   The United States–led invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to a disastrous breach of security. Galleries were broken into and contents were stolen, although the most precious objects, including the Nimrud gold, had been stored elsewhere. It is still impossible to say how many artifacts were destroyed and looted since most of the museum’s records were also destroyed. The theft of the collection of cylinder seals from a locked storeroom in the museum’s basement is one of the most deplorable losses. The museum officially reopened in February 2009, although only a fraction of the collection can be viewed and access is limited. Notable remaining and stolen objects can be seen in the virtual museum, a project initiated in 2005 by international scholars (

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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