A statue is displayed at a ceremony in Baghdad on Tuesday to showcase more than 500 stolen archaeological treasures that were returned to Iraq this week.
Likely from the New Sumerian period, about 4,000 years ago, the scultpture is a "foundation statue" that carries inscriptions telling who the current king was, what building it was placed in, and when that building was built, according to Donny George, a former director of Iraq's National Museum and currently a professor at Stony Brook University in New York.
Many of the items had been stolen after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, but large-scale looting of Iraqi artifacts from archaeological sites can be traced back to the first gulf war in the 1990s, experts say.
"The sanctions that followed the first gulf war crippled the middle class, because many businesses were no longer able to function," the University of Pennsylvania's Rose explained. "People needed income anyway they could get it, and many of them took to plundering archaeological sites."
(See "Hunt for Stolen Iraqi Antiquities Moves to Cyberspace" .)