The New York Times tries to make sense of the massive number of antiquities that have been returned to the country since 2003:
The returned items include a 4,400-year-old statue of King Entemena of Lagash looted from the National Museum here after the American invasion in 2003; an even older pair of gold earrings from Nimrud stolen in the 1990s and seized before an auction at Christie’s in New York last December; and 362 cuneiform clay tablets smuggled out of Iraq that were seized by the American authorities in 2001 and were being stored in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed. […] The United States has returned 1,046 antiquities since 2003, when looters ransacked buildings across Iraq, including its museums, according to the American Embassy here. For all the international outrage the looting stirred toward the United States and its allies, many of the items were smuggled out of the country before the invasion, often with the connivance of officials in Saddam Hussein’s government, according to archaeological officials here. […] Iraq has 12,000 known archaeological sites where Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Persian cities — and later Islamic cities — once stood. Many are unprotected, and have been badly looted for years, especially during the bloodiest years of war in 2006 and 2007. A special police force created in 2008 has yet to fill its ranks, mired at its inception by the government’s bureaucracy and a lack of support for cultural preservation.
The National Museum, which officially reopened last year though many of its galleries remain closed and in disrepair, has recovered roughly half of 15,000 pieces that were looted from its collection. All told, Iraqi officials say they have confiscated and returned to government property more than 30,000 antiquities and artworks since 2003, from inside and outside Iraq. The museum can hold only a fraction of those. “We can make 15 museums like the one we had,” its deputy director, Muhsin Hassan Ali, said on Tuesday.
Looted Treasures Return to Iraq, but Questions Remain (New York Times)