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Why artefacts should not be returned

Further to the column from the Arts Editor, “Stolen Moments in British Museum” (Nov 4) in which he demanded all artefacts held by the museum should be returned to the original owners, on Nov 24 Channel 4 and The Sunday Telegraph covered the likely discovery of the site of one of the wonders of the ancient world, the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

This discovery is due to the fact that Dr Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University’s Oriental Institute, one of a handful of people in the world who can read cuneiform, was able to read the ancient text on the Taylor Prism held by the British Museum which describes the lost gardens in some detail. In addition, the museum provided support for Dr Dalley’s findings in the form of a bas-relief from Ninevah.

This shows King Sennacherib’s terraced garden, with plants hanging from arches, that was constructed 2,700 years ago. A discovery that suggests the hanging gardens has been credited to the wrong king, the wrong location and the wrong historic period. In addition, until Dr Dalley’s investigation, no one had worked out how the massive garden was watered.

If the above items had been returned to the gentle, peace-loving inhabitants of Ninevah in northern Iraq, as per the Arts Editor’s demands, they would surely meet a similar fate as has 99% of King Sennacherib’s wondrous palace and gardens and the probable site, and even existence, of the Hanging Gardens remain forever shrouded.

Hopefully the Arts Editor is already enjoying a well-earned rest in a warm, Middle-East holiday haven, or better, at the British Museum in Great Russell Street, London.

Chris Callaghan
Co Cork


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