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Ancient Artifacts as Compensation?

By Alicia Dorr in News on Mar 13, 2006 8:04PM

Adding one more dimension to the already incredibly complex realities of terrorism, museums and other institutions that keep historical artifacts may have to hand collections over as compensation for victims of suicide bombings in the Middle East.

A federal magistrate sustained a request to have the University of Chicago give ancient Persian artifacts from its Oriental Institute over to victims of Hamas bombings. Basically, the Iranian artifacts are property of Iran, which has partially funded Hamas—and that makes the artifacts physical property that can be used to atone for victims' deaths.

persian.jpgU of C's council doesn't agree. It's chief of legal counsel said that the law doesn't allow for these artifacts to be confiscated—and the same goes for other collections around the world which are currently facing the same issue, such as the Field Museum, Harvard University, the University of Michigan and others. But courts that award compensation to those who file suit against Iran are basically saying that these pieces are some of the country's greatest assets, and, although the current holders may have excavated them long ago or have them on extended loan, they still belong to the country.