After last week’s shocking destructions at the Mosul Museum, when ISIS extremists filmed themselves hammer-drilling statues from the ancient city of Nineveh, another tragic devastation happened at the archaeological site of Nimrud. The authors of the damage claim to be following the words of the Quran, but their interpretation of Islamic law is very far-fetched and their actions are aimed at scandalizing the Western world and mocking its values.
Nimrud, by its ancient name Kalhu (or the Biblical Calah), is a city situated in the north of Bagdad, founded more than 3,000 years ago by Shalmaneser I (1274 BC – 1245 BC or 1265 BC – 1235 BC) an Assyrian king of the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365 – 1050 BC). The city is thought by experts to have been already inhabited as far back as 7,000 years ago. Some of the buildings preserved from the ancient settlement, like the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (who ruled from 883 to 859 BC), were important testimonies of Assyrian architectural techniques, as well as Assyrian sculpting and writing techniques.
The archaeological site in Nimrud was mostly excavated by British explorers, and several objects found there belong to the British Museum now. In 2002, it was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world’s most endangered sites, because the stone reliefs were decaying due to the weather and were unguarded from thieves. Since the war against Iraq broke out in 2003, the site was practically abandoned, because of the failure of the Iraqi state structures. However, according to Ihsan Fethi, a specialist in evaluating damaged archaeological sites and a member of the Iraqi Architects Society, the site was still in a decent condition until now.
Among the most precious artifacts that were most probably destroyed are the winged-bull stone colossi called “Lamassu”, with human heads and beards. Similar statues were destroyed at the Mosul Museum last week. Nimrud was also important for the steles and bas-reliefs showing scenes of war and hunting, as well as mythological creatures like bird-headed genies. The loss of these important relics was deplored by former UNESCO world heritage officer in charge of Iraq monuments George Papagiannis, who considered the Nimrud barbaric destructions a huge misfortune to the work of historical preservation. Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Thursday that extremists have been using heavy vehicles like bulldozers to smash the ancient vestiges. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities regrets the behavior of these barbaric groups, and considers that they are defying “the will of the world and the feelings of humanity”.
image source: Al-Jazeera