Finally, Visual Confirmation of the Warka Vase!

By | Friday, September 11, 2020 Leave a Comment
Waaaaay back in 2003, G.W. Bush decided it would be fun to invade a country that we really never had any business invading. One of the under-reported tragedies of his war was the potentially irreparable damage to one of the world's oldest comics. (To be fair, though, there were many tragedies in that whole clusterfuck of a war and they can't all get equal air time.) The chaos that ensued immediately after G.W. invaded Iraq led to a great many archeological artifacts being stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, one of the more notable ones was the Warka Vase.

The 3 foot tall Warka Vase was carved out of alabaster around 3,000 B.C. and was discovered in 1934. The vase has three tiers of artwork wrapping around its exterior depicts a series of offerings being made to the goddess Inanna. I don't think I've ever heard anyone -- even Scott McCloud -- claim this to be comics per se. Archeologists tend to use high-minded phrases like "narrative relief sculpture." But it is sequential art -- a comic, after a fashion -- and certainly a more involved piece of history than a single image that might occur on another vase from the same period.

In the lawlessness that accompanied the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the National Museum of Iraq was looted and any number of priceless treasures disappeared, including the Warka Vase. (U.S. troops were instead sent to guard other sites, such as the Oil Ministry.) It was immediately known that the vase was damaged, as it had been ripped from its base so forcibly that it broke, leaving a portion of the vase remaining on its stand. When it was returned during an amnesty period a few months later by three unidentified men who pulled it unceremoniously out of the trunk of their Toyota, while many people were relieved to see its return, it was now in 14 pieces.

I reported on this originally back in 2008 and I tried to keep tabs on it for the subsequent few years. But there was pretty much zero reporting on it. Every now and then, there'd be a report about the Iraqi Museum generally and they might mention the Vase, but there were never any accompanying photos or even a confirmation that it had been repaired and/or put back on display. In 2015, I finally did find verbal confirmation that it had been repaired and was on display again but still no photos to see how it was repaired or presented. The picture at the top of this article has been the same one I've been using since 2008, and that was taken from before the Iraq War.

However, I did just find a travel report from last year that includes a contemporary photo of the Warka Vase on display in the Iraqi Museum! (See below!) It appears to have been made whole again, and there don't seem to have been any massive pieces lost. It's awful that it was so badly damaged in the first place, and even more awful how the G.W.'s childish attempt to fill his dady's shoes led to so much death and destruction. But, finally, after following this story off and on for over a decade, I think I can finally put it comfortably to rest with at least some semblance of a happy ending.
Warka Vase, current condition
Newer Post Older Post Home