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Mosul, along with numerous other cities in Syria and Iraq has experienced a terrible spate of having their precious ancient artifacts and sites destroyed and looted by ISIS combatants who claim that they are offended by ‘idolatry’. This cultural terrorism has resulted in a permanent loss of the physical evidence of the numerous fascinating civilizations that once flourished in this now intensely troubled region of the world. The loss has been deeply traumatizing for the local people who are proud of their history and see its destruction as a particularly cruel form of punishment.
“They [ISIS] want their own history, “explained Iraqi archaeological Lamia Al-Gaylani, “Especially in a city like Mosul where the people are very proud of their history, I think (ISIS) did this as a form of revenge.” But in a strange twist of events, this devastating form of terrorism inflicted by ISIS has actually led to the uncovering of a beautiful testimony to the ancient past in the war-torn city of Mosul.
ISIS accidentally revealed a beautiful Assyrian palace
Back in 2014, ISIS combatants took control of the city and destroyed a beautiful shrine. However, their wanton destruction actually revealed that the shrine had been built on the foundations of a 2600-year-old Assyrian palace which had never been viewed by archaeologists and historians until now. According to the local archaeologists working on the site, the mission to investigate the palace is being done as quickly as possible because of safety concerns. “We fear it could all collapse at any time, “said senior archaeologist Layla Salih “There are cave-ins in the tunnels every day.”
The precarious situation at the archaeological site was caused by ISIS themselves who had been digging tunnels underneath the palace in order to create shelter from attacks and to hunt for ancient artifacts to sell on the black market, according to the Iraqi Culture Minister, Salim Khalef.
It appears that the ISIS thieves took a great deal of the precious artifacts that once lay in the palace but there is still a great deal for the archaeologists to work with. So far, the team has uncovered carved stone reliefs portraying female faces and well-preserved statues which seem to represent priests and religious ceremonies and marble sculptures of winged bulls. The archaeologists have also uncovered more than a hundred pieces of ancient pottery.
Archaeologists are thrilled with the artifacts that have been discovered which they believe could be highly significant in the study of ancient Assyrian art. “The reliefs are unique, they have features which we have not seen anywhere else – they are not at all like the well-known Assyrian hunting and banqueting scenes such as we have in the museum, “said Sebastien Rey, the lead archaeologist at the Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Programme at the British Museum.