Museum of Lost Objects

Museum of Lost Objects

United Kingdom

Series tracing the stories of ten antiquities and cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria

Episodes

Looted Sumerian Seal, Baghdad  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. This is the oldest and smallest object in the series: a tiny Sumerian cylinder seal depicting a harvest festival. It was carved in 2,600 BC and was part of the collection of ancient cylinder seals which disappeared when the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was looted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We tell the story of this seal and the pillaging of the country's most important museum. Contributors: Lamia al-Gailani, SOAS; Mazin Safar, son of Iraqi archaeologist Fuad Safar; John Curtis, Iran Heritage Foundation Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Sumerian harvest seal Credit: Lamia al-Gailani With thanks to Augusta McMahon of Cambridge University, Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology UCL, and Sarah Collins of the British Museum.

Armenian Martyr's Memorial, Der Zor  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. The Armenian martyr's memorial in Der Zor, Syria was a tribute to the Armenians who perished in the mass killings of 1915. It was consecrated in 1991 and then completely destroyed in 2014 by Islamic militants. A British Armenian writer recalls her visits to Der Zor, and tracing the harrowing journey of her ancestors through the Syrian desert. Contributors: Nouritza Matossian, writer; Heghnar Watenpaugh, University of California Davis Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Armenian Martyr's Memorial, Der Zor With thanks to Elyse Semerdjian of Whitman College.

The Genie of Nimrud  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. The ancient Assyrians were fond of protective spirits. They had sculptures of all manner of mythological creatures lining the walls of their palaces. One such sculpture was a stone relief of a genie. This was a powerful male figure - a bountiful beard and muscular thighs but with huge wings sprouting from his back. Three thousand years ago, it adorned the walls of Nimrud, one of the great strongholds of Mesopotamia, near Mosul in modern day Iraq. During the 1990s, this genie disappeared - believed to have been taken during the chaos of the first Gulf war - and ended up in London around 2002 - just before the mire of the second Gulf war. It's been kept by Scotland Yard for these last 14 years - locked in legal limbo, and unlikely to ever re-emerge or return to Iraq. We explore the cost of looting to a country's cultural heritage, and tell the story of another valuable Mesopotamian antiquity that was looted, eventually uncovered, but managed to stay in Iraq. This is a tablet, and holds a new chapter from the oldest tale ever told - the Gilgamesh epic. Contributors: Mark Altaweel, Institute of Archaeology UCL; Augusta McMahon, University of Cambridge; Mina al-Lami, BBC Monitoring; the readings are by Martin Worthington, George Watkins, and Susan Jameson Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Assyrian winged-genie from Nimrud, very similar in style to the genie in possession of Scotland Yard Credit: Brooklyn Museum With thanks to Vernon Rapley of the V&A, Sarah Collins of the British Museum, Andrew George of SOAS, and John Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Al-Ma'arri the Poet  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. In 2013, Islamic militants decapitated the statue of an 11th Century Arabic poet that stood in his hometown of Maarat al-Nu'man, a city that's seen heavy fighting during the Syrian conflict. The poet al-Ma'arri was one of the most revered in Syria, and poetry enthusiasts tell his story - he was blind, vegetarian, atheist, and some even claim that his work inspired Dante's Divine Comedy. Contributors: Nasser Rabbat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mahmoud al-Sheikh, BBC Arabic; the reading is by Susan Jameson Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Statue of al-Ma'arri with the sculptor Fathi Mohammed in the 1940s, and the statue after its decapitation in 2013.

Mar Elian Monastery  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. This monastery in the remote Syrian town of Qaryatayn held the 1,000 year old tomb of a saint, Mar Elian, who was revered by Christians and Muslims alike. After the Islamic State group took Palmyra, they came to the monastery of Mar Elian, kidnapped its priest and later bulldozed the site. A British archaeologist who lived and worked there for many years tells the legends of Mar Elian and her close relationship with the community. Contributors: Emma Loosley, University of Exeter; Father Jacques Murad, formerly priest at Mar Elian Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Doorway to Mar Elian Credit: Emma Loosley With thanks to Shadi Atalla.

The Lion of al-Lat  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. The Lion of al-Lat was a protective spirit, the consort of a Mesopotamian goddess. This 2,000 year old statue was one of the first things the so-called Islamic State destroyed when they took Palmyra in 2015. The Polish archaeologist Michal Gawlikowski recalls discovering the lion during an excavation in the 1970s, and we explore the wider symbolism of lions and power and how this was appropriated by modern rulers including Bashar al-Assad's own ancestors. Contributors: Michal Gawlikowski, Warsaw University; Zahed Tajeddin, artist and archaeologist; Augusta McMahon, University of Cambridge; Lamia al-Gailani, SOAS Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Lion of al-Lat Credit: Michal Gawlikowski With thanks to Sarah Collins of the British Museum.

Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. Since 2012, Aleppo - Syria's largest city - has been a key battleground in the conflict, and hundreds of its residents killed or displaced. Aleppo, thought to be the oldest city in the world, is now left in ruins. One of the great monuments of the city was the minaret of the Umayyad Mosque (also known as the Great Mosque) which was toppled in April 2013. It's still unclear who was responsible - Syrian government forces and rebels blame each other. We tell the story of the minaret, a world heritage site that was connected to that other great Aleppo landmark, the souk. Contributors: Nasser Rabbat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Zahed Tajeddin, artist and archaeologist; Heghnar Watenpaugh, University of California Davis; Jalal Halabi, photographer; Will Wintercross, Daily Telegraph Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque Credit: Getty With thanks to Haider Adnan of BBC Arabic, Elyse Semerdjian of Whitman College, and Aya Mhanna.

Tell Qarqur, Hama Province  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. As archaeological sites go, Tell Qarqur isn't the most glamorous, but this mound in Syria is unique. It's in the Orontes Valley in the west of the country and it contains 10,000 years of continuous human occupation. It is a goldmine of information for studying the movements of long history in a single place. In 2011, Tell Qarqur was occupied by the Assad military and since then, the whole area - the province of Hama and neighbouring regions - has been on the frontline of the war and many local residents forced to flee. Jesse Casana, the archaeologist who ran the excavation at Tell Qarqur, talks about monitoring the destruction of his site from space using satellite archaeology, and the Syrian villagers who worked with him now living as refugees. Contributors: Jesse Casana, Dartmouth College; the reading is by Sargon Yelda Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Tell Qarqur Credit: Jesse Casana.

Palmyra: Temple of Bel  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. Last May, the Syrian city of Palmyra was captured by the forces of the so-called Islamic State. Few of the group's excesses have won as much attention as their ravaging of the city. They waged a campaign of violence against the local population, and they systematically destroyed many of the city's great monuments, including the 2,000 year old Temple of Bel. We trace the story of the Temple, pay homage to Palmyra's ancient warrior Queen Zenobia - and hear from a modern day Zenobia, daughter of Khaled al-Asaad director of antiquities at Palmyra who was beheaded by IS. She tells us when IS militants took over her home and her last words with her father. Contributors: Nasser Rabbat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Salam al-Kuntar, University of Pennsylvania Museum; Zenobia al-Asaad, daughter of Khaled al-Asaad, her words read in English by Amira Ghazalla Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Temple of Bel, Palmyra Credit: Getty With thanks to Faisal Irshaid of BBC Arabic, Alma Hassoun of BBC Monitoring, Rubina Raja of Aarhus University, Christopher Jones of Columbia University, and Christa Salamandra of City University of New York.

Winged-Bull of Nineveh  

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the histories of 10 antiquities or cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. With hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions of people displaced and some of the world's most significant heritage sites destroyed, the wars in Iraq and Syria have had an enormous cost. While the historical artefacts that have been bombed, defaced and plundered can never be restored - they are very well remembered. Through local histories, legends and personal stories, the Museum of Lost Objects recreates these lost treasures and explores their significance across generations and cultures, from creation to destruction. The winged-bull was a huge 2,700 year old sculpture that stood guard at the gates of one of the most fabled cities in antiquity - Nineveh, in modern day Mosul, northern Iraq. Militants from the Islamic State group defaced the winged-bull in February 2015, almost a year after seizing control of the city. We tell the story of the bull and the role of Nineveh in the origins of Iraqi archaeology. Contributors: Mazin Safar, son of Iraqi archaeologist Fuad Safar; Mark Altaweel, Institute of Archaeology, UCL; and Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani, SOAS Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf Picture: Winged-Bull of Nineveh, drawn by Eugène Flandin Credit: The New York Public Library With thanks to Nigel Tallis and Sarah Collins of the British Museum, and Augusta McMahon of the University of Cambridge.

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