Muhammed said that he asked that employees of the Central Bank observe the opening of the boxes, and the verification and listing of their contents. "The pieces belong to Iraq and not only to Iraqi Museum, and we at the Central Bank of Iraq feel we have a share in these boxes because we kept them for 14 years since 1990," he said.
Draining the water from the vaults became a priority, not only to determine if the treasures had escaped the looting that had taken place on the bank's upper floors during the recent war in Iraq, but because the authorities urgently needed to recover the country's cash reserves.
"We had a crisis situation where we needed to get access to the dinars in the vaults of the Central Bank to pay salaries, and thanks to National Geographic we've been able to open the vaults, to pump out the water, and pay the salaries," said Jacob Nell, advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Finance.
Cash was recovered, wet but intact. The "water was impregnated with soot and not as we feared with sewage, so it's just like they've been through the washing machine and the money is clean," Nel told the Ultimate Explorer team. "We were able to pump the water out of the vaults, which means that we could get access to the dinars that were stored there, which was essential for us to be able to pay April salaries throughout the country. "
Confirmation that the treasures of Nimrud are in safe custody will be a relief to the archaeological and art communities. There have been widespread fears that they were looted along with thousands of artifacts stripped from the Iraq Museum and archaeological sites in the chaos of the war in Iraq and its aftermath.
National Geographic News Alerts
Help Maintain Connections to the Past
The devastating loss of Iraq's historic treasures isn't an isolated event. Around the world artifacts and monuments are threatened by war, the elements, and lack of resources to preserve them. The threat extends to the world's spiritual and intellectual legacy. Of the 6,000 languages known today, fully half are no longer taught to children, and each day ancient practices, skills, and wisdom fade from the landscape of human imagination.
As part of a growing commitment to maintain all links to our shared cultural past, the National Geographic Society has created the World Cultures Fund, which supports the work of archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, artists, and other professionals wherever the history of civilizations is at risk. The World Cultures Fund will support a wide array of initiatives including antiquities conservation and expeditions to reveal and share the unique stories of people around the globe. Other projects will include conservation of records of the past and celebration of enduring cultures through film, world music, and other mediums.
You can support these vital efforts by making a gift online at www.nationalgeographic.com/help. Gifts can also be mailed directly to: World Cultures Fund, National Geographic Society Development Office, 1145 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.
More Iraq Stories from National Geographic News
National Geographic News: Iraq
Lost Iraq Treasures: Rare Geographic Photos
Hunt for Stolen Iraqi Antiquities Moves to Cyberspace
Bird Teams Flock to Iraq to Survey War's Impact
Q&A: Embedded Geographic Filmmaker on Iraq War
Iraq's Eden: Reviving the Legendary Marshes
Uniting Iraq's Disparate Cultures a Challenge, Experts Say
Baghdad Zoo Animals to Get Help From U.S. Zoos
Iraq: The State of the Postwar Environment
Humanitarian Crisis Looming for Iraq, Aid Workers Warn
National Geographic TV Reporter Embedded in Iraq
Dogs of War: Inside the U.S. Military's Canine Corps
Iraq Conflict: Following the "Laws of War"?
Dolphins Deployed as Undersea Agents in Iraq
Geography Shapes Nature of War in Iraq
Iraq War Threatens Ancient Treasures
Photographer Tells of Iraqi Kurds "In Agony"
Iraq Expert Predicts "Problems of Control"
More National Geographic Iraq resources:
Hot Spot: Iraq
History and Culture Guide
Maps and Geography
National Geographic magazine's online presentation Baghdad Before the Bombs (photo gallery, audio, excerpt from the print magazine, and more)
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES