More than a century and a half ago, and in mysterious circumstances, a large load of Iraqi artifacts were submerged in the Tigris River, as a French mission was trying to smuggle them to Paris and display them in the Louvre Museum, after they had collected them from the antiquities of Babylon and Nineveh, according to researchers and experts.

Since its sinking at the Rafidain Junction in the Qurna region (north of Basra) on March 15, 1855, these archaeological treasures have disappeared, and all excavation attempts have failed to find them, which has sparked much speculation.

Excavation trip

The excavation campaigns in Iraq have witnessed 3 phases.

The first phase of it was called "amateur exploration", and it was between 1842 and 1899 AD, and it consisted of random exhumations far from accurate scientific methods, according to Ahmed Al-Mamouri, director of the Basra Museum of Civilization.

Al-Maamouri explains to Al-Jazeera Net that the goal of the first phase was to extract treasures and large monuments to collect money by transferring those antiquities to Europe and selling them or acquiring some of them, explaining that most of those who carried out these works are foreigners who are hobbyists

As consuls and officers.

The Iraqi antiquities and treasures that have sunk are estimated to be enough to open 4 international museums (Reuters)

As for the stage of scientific excavations, it began in 1898 - according to al-Maamouri - and the beginning of this phase is represented by the German excavations in the ancient city of Babylon, which witnessed a careful examination of the monuments and remains of the building, and focused on the class succession and the historical roles of the site.

He added that the third stage was the Iraqi scientific excavations, in which Iraqi archaeologists, including Dr. Taha Baqer and others, participated, and this stage began in 1936.

Al-Maamouri indicates that excavations began in more than one archaeological site, including Nineveh, Assyrian cities, some prehistoric sites, and the cities of Babylon, Kish, Nefer, Al-Warka and Ur.

Al-Maamouri says that Iraq has witnessed 3 stages of archaeological excavation campaigns during the past two centuries (Al-Jazeera)

Professor of History and Civilization at the University of Baghdad, Mazhar al-Khafaji, identifies 3 dimensions of these excavations, explaining that the first dimension is cultural history, behind which the Jews, specifically global Zionism, stand in accordance with the "prophecy of Isaiah", which says that Babylon should not remain a stone or be left behind.

He adds to Al-Jazeera Net that the second dimension is material and profitable, and was practiced by a large number of travelers who arrived in Iraq, as well as some foreign embassies.

As for the third dimension, Al-Khafaji says that it is the economic dimension, and the idea that many museums and galleries selling archaeological finds deal with Iraqi antiquities.

Tragedy treasures

In the nineteenth century, Iraq was under the control of the Ottomans, and it was suffering from a power struggle between the great powers at the time.

Britain and France, and at that time, the French consul in Mosul, Paul Amile Bouta, was conducting excavations in Khorsbad (now north of Mosul), the fourth capital of the Assyrian Empire, according to a member of the Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, Representative Bashar al-Kiki.

He adds to Al-Jazeera Net that in 1852 AD, "Victor Bliss" and his assistant, the artist, "Felix Thomas", came instead of "Botta", and after hard work for 3 years, and in 1855 AD, Victor completed his work in uncovering most of the antiquities in Khorsabad, and was ready to return to France, so she was Catastrophe sinking effects.

Al-Kiki confirmed that the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and the General Authority for Antiquities in the search for these lost treasures did not stop (Al-Jazeera)

It is noteworthy that about 235 large boxes loaded with antiquities were shipped from Babylon and Khorsabad, and at the Qurna region - where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet - a group of tribes attacked the ships that were on board the antiquities, along with the protective force, to get a catastrophe of the shipwreck carrying Iraqi antiquities, according to Kiki.

British scientist Seaton Lloyd is quoted as saying that the ruins that have sunk are enough to open 4 international museums due to the size and value of these treasures.

Al-Kiki refers to several attempts that began in the 1950s to search for sunken antiquities, but to no avail.

Mysterious disappearance

The assistant professor of ancient history, Maytham al-Nuri, believes that the issue of the disappearance of these monuments is very thorny, and includes a set of opinions and ideas put forward, and it cannot be decided upon for several reasons.

He explains to Al-Jazeera Net that the most suspicious reason is that this incident was not documented in an organized scientific manner, as well as other similar incidents, and there are no witnesses to this incident other than what was reported by foreigners, and the important thing is that Iraq at that time was subordinate to the Ottoman rule, and it is not known exactly. Did they take the consent of the Ottomans to transfer it or not.

On the circumstances of the shipwreck, Al-Nouri reviews several stories, where some claim that it sank due to severe storms, while another accused Britain of inciting the Iraqi tribes to drown it, and there is another opinion that is likely to be subjected to a robbery by the tribes after hearing that they carry valuable treasures.

Al-Nouri believes that the issue of the disappearance of these monuments is thorny and has a number of different opinions (Al-Jazeera)

He excludes the hypothesis of transferring this large amount of antiquities via the river, likely smuggling through another route, and the evidence for that is the complete disappearance of these antiquities, despite the excavations that lasted for a long time, the last of which was the Japanese mission in the seventies, which did not find anything.

For his part, Al-Khafaji does not exclude the existence of a plot to smuggle Iraqi, Egyptian and Palestinian antiquities, because it is a sign of the extent of progress and development these civilizations have reached, and it is a cultural landmark and a great tourist value.

It reveals the contribution of some Iraqi scholars to smuggling antiquities, including Father Anastas Mary Al-Karmali, who the British notes indicate that he helped them find many of these antiquities and export them to Europe.

Al-Khafaji does not rule out a plot to smuggle antiquities because it is a sign of the progress made by the civilizations of Iraq (Al-Jazeera - Associated Press)

A glimmer of hope

Although more than 166 years have passed since the disappearance of these monuments, hopes remain that they will be found using modern techniques in the field of excavation and fossil detection.

Al-Kiki confirms that the efforts of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities and the General Authority for Antiquities and Heritage have not stopped searching for these lost treasures.

He notes that there are many obstacles;

The most important of these is the length of time that has passed since the sinking of these antiquities, the need for international action rather than the work of a small mission, and most importantly, the need for huge sums of money.

It is pointed out that Iraq is going through a financial crisis that prevents it, at least for the time being, from carrying out gigantic work, but this does not make Iraq stand idly by to reveal its great civilization, even if it is under water.