A brief compendium of priceless antiquities ISIS has destroyed for "purification"

They’re up to three ancient cities now.


Islamic State militants have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi officials say.

A tourism and antiquities ministry official said the extent of the damage at the Unesco world heritage site was unclear, but he had received reports that it had been demolished.

Hatra was founded in the days of the Parthian Empire over 2,000 years ago.



(CNN) ISIS has again destroyed cultural treasures, this time bulldozing the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, the nation’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said.

“ISIS continues to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” the ministry said in a statement. “They violated the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed its ancient ruins.” …

Nimrud was a city in the Assyrian kingdom, which flourished between 900 B.C. and 612 B.C. The archaeological site is south of Mosul in northern Iraq.


Iraq’s director of antiquities has confirmed that Islamic State militants have ransacked the ancient city of Dur-Sharrukin near Mosul, the group’s latest assault on the country’s millennia-old heritage…

“[Dur-Sharrukin’s] city walls were razed, and some elements of the temples, but we don’t know the exact extent [of the damage],” Iraq’s director of antiquities, Qais Rasheed, told Reuters. “Looting took place, and then the razing”.

The antiquities ministry acknowledged reports on Monday that Dur-Sharrukin, present day Khorsabad, had been desecrated by the militants in latest attack by Isis against Iraq’s Assyrian heritage.

A blogger attempting to catalog the damage to Mosul-area antiquities explains what ISIS did to the winged bull sculptures at the Nergal Gate:

The scene with the narrator was shot at the Nergal Gate, one of the gates on the north side of Nineveh. The entrance to the gate was flanked by two large winged human-headed bulls known as lamassu in Akkadian. The gate and its lamassu were first excavated by Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1849 but then re-buried. The left lamassu (seen above behind the ISIS narrator) was uncovered again sometime before 1892, and a local man paid an Ottoman official for the top half of it, cut it off and broken down over a fire in order to extract lime. The right lamassu remained buried until 1941 when heavy rains eroded the soil around the gate and exposed the two statues. The gate was later reconstructed around them and they have remained on display ever since.[1]

The gate was built during Sennacherib’s expansion of Nineveh sometime between 704 and 690 BC.

The video stops at 2:26 to emphasize the sign which states that “this gate is related to the god Nergal, the god of plague and the lower world.” The left lamassu, already missing its upper half, does not seem to have been targeted. The right lamassu had its face chiseled off with a jackhammer, likely causing irreparable damage.


Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Recently Updated

ISIS ostentatiously destroyed statues at the Mosul Museum in February on video, and historians are attempting to identify what was lost. Some stills from the video:


Though initial reports suggested much of what was destroyed might be replicas, many originals have also been identified, mostly from Hatra:

Lynda Albertson, the chief executive of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, pointed out that some of the footage matches images of the museum’s galleries included in a 2009 Unesco report. She said that the museum “specializes in antiquities from the Assyrian empire, which flourished within the provincial borders of present-day Province of Nineveh,” but “also houses a significant collection of sculptures and other stone relics from Hatra — the capital of the first Arab Kingdom.” …

Ms. Robson said in a BBC radio interview that the video evidence showed that “artifacts from two different ancient cities as well as modern replicas” were destroyed at the museum. “What we’ve got at the beginning of the video are standing statues of people who lived in the desert city Hatra in Iraq in the second century B.C. to the third century A.D.,” she said.

Again, from a blogger attempting to figure out what’s lost. The post has before and after pictures of the statues described.

The beginning of the video (0:08) shows three men hitting two statues with a sledgehammer while failing to do much damage. They try to pull the statues over without success.

These statues represent kings of Hatra. The statue on the left is of an unidentified king of Hatra, dressed in a Parthian style and holding an acanthus leaf in his left hand and a piece of fruit in his right. Its museum number is MM5.

The statue on the right has been called “the finest of all the sculptures unearthed in Hatra.” An Aramaic inscription on the base of the statue reads “The Image of King Uthal, the merciful, noble-minded servant of God, blessed by God.” All other details about this king’s life, including the dates of his reign, remain obscure.[1]


Libraries were among the first treasures targeted:

BAGHDAD — When Islamic State group militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul earlier this month, they were on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people’s ideas.

Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books — including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.

The rest?

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned,” a bearded militant in traditional Afghani two-piece clothing told residents, according to one man living nearby who spoke to The Associated Press. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation, said the Islamic State group official made his impromptu address as others stuffed books into empty flour bags.

The tomb of Jonah:

On Friday, the media reported that ISIS, the Islamist group that has established a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq, had destroyed the centuries-old Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq. Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.

An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque; the structure that ISIS destroyed last week dated to the 14th century. In addition to the tomb, the mosque once held the supposed remains of the whale that had swallowed Jonah, including one of its teeth. At some point, the tooth disappeared. In 2008, the U.S. Army presented the mosque with a replica.

Last week, ISIS closed the mosque and prevented worshipers from entering. Then it wired the structure with explosives and reduced it to rubble. You can see a video of the explosion here, taken by a Mosul resident, who mutters, in Arabic, “No, no, no. Prophet Jonah is gone. God, these scoundrels.”


An 1,800-year-old church:

Militants from the radical jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have set fire to a 1,800-year-old church in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, a photo released Saturday shows.

The burning of the church is the latest in a series of destruction of Christian property in Mosul, which was taken by the Islamist rebels last month, along with other swathes of Iraqi territory.

Cultural and historical obliteration is, of course, the goal:

Yet, for ISIS, destroying Assyrian archaeology represents more than an attack on idolatry. In order to remain the only ruling religious body in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is going beyond ethnically and religiously cleansing the population to erasing any historical traces of the displaced people.

The archaeological sites it destroys are from the Babylonian, Persian and Roman Empires. These eras represent a pluralistic past that legitimizes the presence of Chaldeans, Yazidis and other minorities in the region, with whom ISIS does not share a human heritage. ISIS’ interpretation of history maintains that there are two historical eras: Jahiliyah (the time of ignorance) and, the later era, Islam (the time of enlightenment). The presence of sites from the Babylonian, Persian and Roman Empires harks back to a golden age before Islam. ISIS is thus working to erase any trace of those eras, for it thinks it cannot control the future until it controls the past.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos