Sunday, October 01, 2017


Videos released by ISIS showed terrible acts of vandalism -- its members smashing artifacts at Mosul Museum and blowing up parts of the site of the Assyrian capital of Nimrud.

Archaeologists returning to areas recaptured from ISIS have found other ancient sites turned into parking lots, statues smashed and manuscripts disappeared.

But there is good news too - with ISIS having failed to destroy many artifacts, previously undiscovered treasures found amid the ruins, and the first modern explorations of sites it never captured revealing exciting new finds.

Magnificent winged bulls which guarded the entrance to the Nergal Gate have been mutilated and Nebi Yunus, the site of a palace, has suffered far greater damage than expected and is in danger of collapse because of tunnelling.

But among all this dreadful news is a glimmer of something positive. At Nebi Yunus, it seems that ISIS was driven out just in time.

Iraqi forces found a network of tunnels, largely following the course of ancient sculptures which lined the palace walls. Tunnels dug by ISIS in an attempt to find antiquities, or serve as communications routes, revealed unseen artifacts. While these tunnels have hugely damaged the archaeology of the mound, ISIS did not have time to loot or destroy these sculptures.

The discoveries in the tunnels - reliefs, sculptures, and cuneiform slabs - are spectacular.
The reliefs are truly exceptional, depicting religious and cultic scenes, priests, and what appears to be a demigoddess or a high-priestess.

About 20 miles south of Mosul is Nimrud, the Assyrian city of Kalhu - a great city between 1350 and 610 BC. Excavations at Nimrud began in the mid-19th Century and continued until 1992, revealing some of the most important monuments of Assyrian art.

Since March 2015 the site has been systematically destroyed by ISIS - with about 80% of it lost.
IS leveled the Ziggurat - a stepped pyramid which was once more than 34m high - with heavy machines, its features now lost or hidden in rubble.

It also destroyed the lamassus - winged bull sculptures - in the nearby Ishtar temple and destroyed the entrance of the Nabu Temple, along with the fish-cloaked statues which flanked it. Bulldozers and explosives were used to destroy the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, king of Assyria from 883 to 859 BC. ISIS posted a video in April 2015 showing parts of Nimrud being blown up

Iraqi archaeologist Faleh Noman, who undertook British Museum training and has been appointed by the Iraqi government to lead assessment of the sites, found "barbaric" destruction. "The main entrance to the palace leading to the throne room has been completely destroyed and the lamassu demolished. "The wall reliefs and lamassu of the second gateway have also been damaged, with only one large wall relief remaining intact." Inside the palace, he found that sledgehammers have been used to damage reliefs.

Iraqi forces recaptured Nimrud from ISIS in November 2016. Across the Mosul region alone, Iraqi officials believe that at least 66 sites were destroyed. There has also been looting, with many of the tunnels dug by the extremists carved out with the aim of finding antiquities to sell on the black market: heritage turned into weaponry.


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