The Metropolitan Museum and Others Respond to ISIS Destruction of Assyrian Sculptures

"I don't want to be Iraqi anymore," said an archaeology professor.

The AAMD has offered a safe haven for works belonging to museums in conflict areas. Photo: im41.com

The director of the Metropolitan Museum was joined by professors and experts around the world expressing shock and outrage today over the video documentation by ISIS militants of their destruction of priceless Assyrian sculptures in Northern Iraq.

Social media is awash with images of the destruction and a video clip that appeared on numerous news sites as well as on Twitter and YouTube. The video is a horrifying montage showing militants hacking away at massive sculptures or pulverizing them with all manner of instruments, from chainsaws to pick-axes to sledgehammers. Some attackers are shown simply heaving statues with their hands or body and toppling to the ground. (See: Are Islam and Contemporary Art Incompatible?) Some images were immediately yanked by YouTube.

Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell blasted out an email stating:

“Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.

“I don’t want to be Iraqi anymore,” said Iraqi archaeology professor, Lamia al-Gailani to Reuters. “They are priceless, unique,” said al-Gailani. “It’s unbelievable.”

Al-Gailani, who is an associate fellow at London-based Institute of Archaeology, said the damage is inestimable. “It’s not only Iraq’s heritage,” she told Reuters. “It’s the whole world’s. It’s human heritage.” (See also ISIS Militants Storm Museum and Smash 3,000 Year Old Assyrian Sculptures on Video and 8,000 Books Burned by ISIS in Massive Iraqi Libricide.)

 

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Others took to Twitter to express their shock and sadness. Historian Tom Holland tweeted: “The desecration of ancient Mesopotamia’s treasures by is an attack, not just on Iraqi civilisation, but the world’s: a terrible crime.”

“Barbarians at the Gate: Smashes Thousands of Years of History at Museum,” tweeted Newsweek reporter Josh Stein.


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