ISIS Destroys 2,900-Year-Old Assyrian Ziggurat

It follows the destruction of a priceless palace in the ancient Assyrian capital.

The Ziggurat of Nimrud. Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

In yet another case of destruction of cultural heritage, ISIS has obliterated the 2,900-year-old ziggurat of Nimrud, a 140-foot-high stepped tower comprised of mud bricks, the Times reports.

Nimrud, the former capital of Assyria, was captured by Iraqi forces on Sunday, but not before ISIS jihadists had razed the ancient structure, considered to be one of Iraq’s wonders.

Ziggurats are towering buildings that were erected in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, the earliest of which date back to 2900–2350 BCE. Built primarily for religious purposes, the temples’ sizes are trumped only by the Egyptian and Central American pyramids.

According to ArtForum, the ziggurat of Nimrud was built by King Ashurnasirpal II about 2,900 years ago. The structure was dedicated to the war god Ninurta, Nimrud’s patron deity, and was therefore a sacred site.

According to a report from the Art Newspaper, the temple was demolished as early as September. The destruction was confirmed by satellite imagery only days ago, as the Iraqi army had planned to check the ziggurat for mines and boobytraps, before realizing it was too late.

“The Nimrud ziggurat was apparently bulldozed and pushed into the ancient bed of the Tigris river,” said John Curtis, the president of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.

The task now is for archaeologists to confirm that no looting occurred, and to determine if the site can be reconstructed or is beyond repair.

This is not the first time ISIS has committed a crime of cultural destruction. In April 2015, they blew up the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, also in the ancient city of Nimrud, after first attacking it with sledgehammers and drills.

According to Curtis, the annihilation of the 13th-century BCE city can be deemed as “the worst damage that Isil has inflicted on Iraqi archaeology.”


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