BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi National Museum inaugurated two renovated halls adorned with life-size stone statues on Thursday, highlighting the rich history of a country once again shattered by war.
The newly renovated halls feature more than 500 artifacts that mainly date back to the Hellenistic period (312-139 B.C.), some of which were retrieved and renovated after the looting of the museum following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said Qais Rashid, who head the state-run Museum Department.
The museum chronicles some 7,000 years of Mesopotamian civilization, including the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians and Assyrians, but remains closed to the general public out of security fears.
Iraq is grappling with a re-invigorated Sunni insurgency that has seized large swaths of the country's north and west since June. The Islamic militants leading the insurgency have destroyed a number of historical and religious monuments they view as un-Islamic or idolatrous.
But the museum inauguration in Baghdad was packed with visitors eager to glimpse relics from happier times.
Rashid said the most important artifacts are the statue of King Sanatruq I -- who reigned from around A.D 140 to 180. It shows him wearing a robe and holding a palm leaf in his left hand while extending his right hand in greeting. An eagle on his head extending its wings symbolizes the king's victories.
Also on display was a headless statue of Hercules, the ancient Greek hero famed for his strength, showing him holding a truncheon and a lion skin.
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