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Iraq briefly reopens looted museum

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The exhibition of Iraqi treasures is guarded by coalition forces.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi citizens had a brief glimpse Thursday at gold jewels from the ancient Assyrian Empire, believed to be one of the most important archaeological finds in the 20th century .

It is the first time the royal treasures of Nimrud have been displayed at Iraq's museum since they were uncovered by Iraqi archaeologists in the late 1980s. Thursday's two-hour exhibit was also a display by the U.S. administration that the treasures were still in the country.

Reports of looting from the Baghdad museum after the Iraq war have sparked criticism against the U.S. military, for not doing more to protect Iraq's antiquities. However, other reports have indicated that many of the museum's treasures were taken prior to the U.S.-led war.

Solid gold anklets weighing a pound each were among the displayed jewelry believed to have once belonged to Queen Yaba, who lived some 3,000 years ago when the Assyrian Empire ruled most of the world.

Her funeral wear also included a crown with angels to protect her and intricate earrings.

"The Assyrians were known as brutal, army people who smashed everything in their fights and their battles," said the museum's director, Donny George.

"But this treasure shows that they are excellent people," George said. "The craftsmanship in this treasure is something extraordinary -- they've been underground for thousands of years and under wraps for a decade more."

Officials hope to have the museum fully open in a few months.

The recent war has left the museum battered. A hole still remains outside the building from a U.S. tank round fired at snipers near the roof.

Original estimates that 170,000 pieces had been looted from the museum in the chaos after the war were widely exaggerated.

"From the public galleries themselves there were 42 pieces that were stolen - ten of those have been fortunately recovered so we have 32 ... display-quality pieces that remain missing," according to U.S. Col. Matthew Bogdanos.

Another 10,000 items -- most of them tiny and some of them fragments -- are missing as well.

The U.S.-led coalition established an amnesty program in the hopes people would return items.


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