Ancient Sites Ravaged in Iraq

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In this satellite image taken on August 31, 2016, the ziggurat at the ancient Neo-Assyrian capital of Nimrud is intact.

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A satellite photo taken on October 2, 2016 shows that the area where the ziggurat once stood has been flattened by earth-moving equipment.

Recently released satellite imagery of archaeological sites around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has revealed extensive destruction at two capital cities of ancient Mesopotamia, according to researchers with the American Schools of Oriental Research Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR CHI).

The ziggurat of Nimrud, a towering sacred structure built nearly 2,900 years ago, was leveled between the end of August and the beginning of October, most likely by the Islamic State.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces severely damaged archaeological remains at the site of Dur-Sharrukin while digging defensive berms and trenches at the site between mid-October and early November.

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While no one has claimed responsibility for the destruction, it is likely the work of the Islamic State, says Michael Danti, ASOR CHI’s academic director. In the spring of 2015, the terrorist group destroyed the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasipal II and the Nabu Temple at Nimrud.

The Islamic State may have destroyed the ziggurat for the same reasons that may have motivated earlier deliberate destructions at the site: to demoralize local populations and demonstrate a scorched-earth bravado in the face of oncoming military forces determined to liberate Mosul.

Islamic State militants may have also been looking for artifacts in the mound, but he points out that ziggurats are generally solid masonry structures that don’t contain burials. „You’d have to be pretty naïve to loot a ziggurat,“.

While there are reports that Nimrud has now been liberated by the Iraqi army, heritage experts have yet to inspect the site. It is likely that the Islamic State has planted the ancient site with IEDs and mines, much like they did in Palmyra.

(National geographic)

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