by Björn Schöpe
March 5, 2015 – A video has provoked worldwide consternation. Everybody can watch radical IS fanatics destroying again the cultural heritage of humanity. This time they hit Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians, once among the world’s biggest cities.
On 26 February 2015 Islamistic terror movement IS published a video from the museum of Mosul, a city in Northern Iraq. There, nearby the ancient city of Nineveh, large portions of the excavated Assyrian antiquities have been preserved. The video shows IS militants destroying unscrupulously the treasures kept in the museum – pushing gigantic statues from pedestals and grinding the fragments with jackhammers, sledgehammers and drills.
In a previous version of the video a terrorist explains in front of the still sound museum that the IS fighters were destroying the Assyrian antiquities because they represented pagan idols. After all, the Prophet himself had shattered similar idols.
Saying this the man recalls Christian history. Around 500 years ago the iconoclastic movement afflicted Catholic churches giving very similar justifications. Calvinists in particular demolished unique artistic monuments of the Middle Ages in order to demonstrate their piety.
We have got over these losses since long time. Just one more reason to feel even more painfully today’s losses. The afflicted artefacts were unique treasures of Mesopotamia’s archaeology comprising many impressive monuments like parts of the ancient city gate. Everybody is shocked, nevertheless, no one has any idea how to prevent further destruction.
In Mosul similar monuments were destroyed. This one is safe – in the British Museum in London.
Fortunately some important testimonies of the Assyrian culture are preserved abroad. When the big archaeological excavations took place in the Middle East the so-called partage was a common practice: excavated items were split between those countries who participated in the excavation and the source country. Today these treasures are safe in Great Britain and the USA.
Considering all this it seems very unlikely that a simple prohibition of trading antiquities, as certain hardliner archaeologists often demand, can really solve the problem. First of all a stable situation in the source countries must be established. Because where fanatics have full rein, nothing remains of humanity’s cultural heritage.
You can see the destruction of human cultural property staged by the IS on Youtube.
Channel 4 stated that most of the destroyed objects were rather copies made of plaster. You will find the report here.
You can find an article on the subject in The Guardian.
In CoinsWeekly we wrote about the scandalous behaviour of IS against all culture.
The Committee for Cultural Policy has called for, eventually, installing real measures to protect cultural property.
You can read more about the historical relevance of Nineveh in Wikipedia.