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Tragedy as militants bomb 2,700-year-old Nineveh Wall in Iraq

Tragedy as militants bomb 2,700-year-old Nineveh Wall in Iraq

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Militants of the Islamic State have destroyed a large portion of the ancient Nineveh wall in Mosul, which dates back some 2,700 years. The tragic loss adds to a series of archaeological, historical, and religious sites of great historical value that have been reduced to ruins.

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported last week that the militants used explosives to blow apart the wall located in the al-Tahrir region on the left coast of Mosul.

“ISIS militants blew up today large parts and expanses of the archaeological wall of Nineveh,” media official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul, Saed Mimousine, told IraqiNews.com last Tuesday. “The Wall of Nineveh is one of the most distinctive archaeological monuments in Iraq and the Middle East,” he added.

View of Adad Gate at Nineveh from the North. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq) was one of the oldest cities in antiquity, having been settled as early as 6000 BC. By 3000 BC, it had become an important religious center for worship of the goddess Ishtar. Under the reign of King Sennacherib (704 – 681 BC), the city grew dramatically in size and grandeur, who made Nineveh capital of his Assyrian Empire. Sennacherib ordered the construction of a massive protective wall around the city, measuring around 7.5 mile (25 km). Inside, he built aqueducts, irrigation canals, public gardens, and spectacular monuments.

Simplified plan of ancient Nineveh showing city wall and location of gateways. Image created by Fredarch. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The wall consisted of a 6 meter (20ft) high stone retaining wall surmounted by a 10 meter (33ft) high and 15 meter (49ft) thick mudbrick wall. The wall had projecting stone towers spaced about every 18 meters (59ft), and fifteen monumental gateways, which served as checkpoints, barracks, and armories. The bases of the walls of the vaulted passages and interior chambers of the gateway were lined with finely cut stone orthostats about 1 meter (3ft) high. To date, only five of the fifteen gateways have been excavated by archaeologists.

Assyrian wall carving of horses and grooms. From Nineveh, South West Palace, 790BC - 592BC. In the British Museum. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Nineveh was the largest city in the world for some fifty years, until a period of civil war in Assyria, in which a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians sacked the city in 612 BC, leaving much of it in ruins. The remains of the wall and city have laid there ever since, standing as a lasting reminder of the once great city of Assyria.

However, when militants captured Mosul in June last year, they proceeded to destroy shrines and tombs important to Christians and Muslims because they allegedly “distort Islam.” The destruction of part of the Nineveh wall is the culmination of many such attacks on historic monuments in the city.

“Bombing the archaeological monuments by ISIS is a flagrant violation of the right of human culture, civilization and heritage,” said Mimousine, who has called on the international community to “take a stand to curb the destruction of historic monuments.”

The king hunting lion from the North Palace, Nineveh seen at the British Museum ( Wikimedia Commons )

Featured image: One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh. A reconstruction was begun in the 1960s by Iraqis, but was not completed. The lower portions of the stone retaining wall are original. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Transportation of Lebanese cedar. A relief, circa 713–716bce, from the north wall of the main court of King Sargon II’s palace at Dur Sharrukin in Assyria (present-day Khorsabad in Iraq)
Department of Oriental Antiquities, Louvre Museum, Paris
Image credit Marie-Lan Nguyen. Source Wikimedia Commons

European and US museums that preserve and display Assyrian artefacts from the ancient royal cities under attack by Islamic State (IS) are working to help their Iraqi colleagues prepare for a day when the sites are liberated. A coalition of the willing exists but it remains to be seen whether institutions will co-ordinate their efforts.

Jonathan Tubb, the keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum in London, urges organisations to do more than express outrage. “We need to get over the threshold of despair – we can do something positive and constructive by preparing for the time when effective government control is restored,” he says.

While the sites in northern Iraq are no-go areas, the British Museum plans to work with colleagues from other parts of Iraq to train a “task force” of professionals in rescue archaeology and emergency heritage management in London. They will return, accompanied by British Museum curators, equipped to draw up plans of action for sites including Nimrud and Nineveh.

More from The Art Newspaper here.

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News: How Nineveh, the largest City in the World, Fell in August 10th, 612 BC and again in 2015

On this day, 2,632 years ago, the ancient metropolis of Nineveh fell. “ ABC 3 ” is a historiographical text from ancient Babylonia which records August 10th 612 BC as the date of this dramatic occurrence.

This marked what historians know as one of the most shocking events in ancient history: The “First” Fall of Nineveh. The “second” Fall of Nineveh occurred in 2015 with more destruction by ISIS.

The Discovery of Nineveh: A Unparalleled Archaeological Find
Ancient Mesopotamia was a cradle of civilization in the northern part of western Asia’s Fertile Crescent, corresponding to modern Iraq, Kuwait, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and areas along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders. In 1839, Paul-Émile Botta of France excavated a series of mounds in the Iraqi desert that led to the incredible discovery of Nineveh, the vast ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia located on the outskirts of modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq.

This discovery in mid-19th-century Europe was truly amazing, because it meant that at least one of the ancient cities and cultures mentioned in the Bible actually existed. This gave the Holy Bible a breath of newfound esteem at a time when scientists were demanding the empirical testing of supernatural claims, replacing time worn myths with logic and reason. The discovery of ancient Nineveh changed everything.

Ancient Nineveh: A Royal City Envied Far And Wide
The Assyrian Empire started to become unstable after the death of King Aššurbanipal in 631 BC when the Babylonians ended their independence. Around 627 AD the Babylonian general Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrians in a battle near Babylon and became king, marking the beginning of the Babylonian Empire which lasted until Nineveh was captured by the Persian Cyrus the Great in October 539 AD.

Although he had liberated Babylonia, Nabopolassar also wanted destroy its capital cities including the religious center at Aššur, the first Assyrian city, and the administrative center at Nineveh.

To prevent this, which would have caused a major shift of power in the Near East, the Egyptians offered military support to Assyria. The Fall of Nineveh Chronicle says that on 25 July 616 AD Nabopolassar defeated an Assyrian force on the banks of the Euphrates to the south of Harran. However, soon after he retreated when an Egyptian army closed on his forces.

Nabopolassar tactfully signed a treaty with the Medes king Umakištar (Cyaxares). The Babylonian crown prince Nabû-kudurru-usur (Nebuchadnezzar) is said to have married Amytis, who many historians hold to have been the daughter of Cyaxares’ son Astyages.

The joint Medes-Babylonian army invaded Nineveh in May 612 AD the city finally fell in July. According to an article on Livius after the suicide of King Sin-šar-iškun, “the looting of Nineveh continued until 10 August, when the Medes finally went home,” and that the fall of Nineveh “shocked the ancient world.” From distant Greece, the poet Phocylides of Miletus reported of the destruction of this ancient city.

2015: The “Second” Fall of Nineveh By ISIS Destruction
While Nineveh fell for the first time over 2500 years ago, destruction of the ancient city continued in 2015 when a priceless Assyrian winged bull was demolished at the Nineveh site. An article in The Guardian discussing the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) described the destruction as a “war crime.”

At the same time, the terrorist organization attempted to attract a sympathetic audience to gain new recruits in their homeland, while provoking reactions in the West.

oTragedy as militants bomb 2,700-year-old Nineveh Wall in Iraq
o3000-Year-Old Assyrian Reliefs Unearthed in ISIS Stomping Ground
oThree ancient cities to rival London, Paris and New York

A 2015 Aljazeera video shows the destruction of several 7th century artifacts from Nineveh on February 26 2015, when ISIS publicly destroyed the Mosul Museum. Many other artifacts were stolen and put up for sale in foreign markets.

However in 2019, the BBC announced that since Iraqi troops recaptured Mosul in 2017, part of the Mosul Museum has been restored and reopened to exhibit contemporary art, while the rest of the museum remains closed “to protect what is left,” said the museum director. If the first Fall of Nineveh was incredible, the second fall of Nineveh was both tragic and disturbing.

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Christians in Baghdad: A Church Behind Concrete Walls and Barbed Wire

Christians in Iraq.Automatically we tend to think of those tens of thousands of Christians who were living in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and are now living as displaced persons somewhere in the Kurdish area of Iraq. But how are the Christians doing elsewhere in Iraq? For example, those living in the capital Baghdad? Until 2003, this place was where most of Iraq’s Christians were living. We visited the city and were surprised by the dedication of the small flock that remained:

How is the situation now in Baghdad for Christians?

All of the pastors and priests agree on this: life is very hard and very difficult. They share the same fate as the rest of the inhabitants. Bombs explode almost daily, killing people from all religious backgrounds. When driving around the city, you see military and police checkpoints everywhere. There are walls topped with barbed wire protecting the buildings and churches against the blasts.

“We suffer from the same things everyone else does,” explains Pastor Joseph. “We want to be with the people. The violence is everywhere. The persecution is everywhere.” Father Thair adds to this: “Security is a very big problem in Baghdad. I don’t think anyone can help with that. The only thing keeping us here is our faith. In that hope, we remain with the church.”

How terribly wrong things can go for Christians became clear in 2010 when terrorists climbed the wall around the Catholic cathedral and entered with explosives and arms. They killed two of the priests, shooting them through their heads, and killed 43 other Christians attending the mass. The church honors the martyrs with their names on the colorful windows around the church and in a special place containing a small exposition of items commemorating that bloody day. What can one do other than pray to God that this will never happen again?

How do the Christians in the city respond to the situation?

“All are thinking about leaving and are preparing to leave Iraq. It is very difficult, but we are working to give them hope,” says Father Afram. He discovered that organizing activities for the people makes a big difference. “People have nothing to do. They go to school or work and then return home. That’s it. Some people tell me, ‘You are giving us hope. You give us something that makes us happy again.” This church almost closed, but it is once again full.”

Pastor Joseph: “We like to be like a Menorah. We’re a small group. We trust in our God. He can use us. We see that everyone is seeking peace, love and hope. We as a church are sharing about the ultimate source of these things. When they hear us talking about this, they listen.” Father Martin, a priest who transferred from Karamles in the Nineveh Plain to Bagdad recently went with his whole congregation to the place where a bomb exploded in front of an ice cream shop. They went to show their solidarity with the victims, despite the danger.

How do the leaders of the churches see the future of the church?

“I believe the future of the church will be with the Muslims who now wish to convert to Christianity. A Muslim who becomes a Christian has good faith and tells others about Christ,” shares an anonymous believer. He continues: “If the government would be open to this, our country would change. Many Muslims would become Christians or atheists. But our constitution points to Islam as the first and best religion of our country.”

We hear in the Middle East of converts from a Muslim background. What about in Baghdad?

“We have new blood, born-again new believers,” says Pastor Joseph. “That is a challenge. It brings a new culture to the church. Recently, a man converted. He is married to three wives and has children with all three of them. He asked me what he should do. I told him to keep them, what else could I say? This is only one of the problems we face with new converts.”

“About 45% of my church now comes from a Muslim background,” says another anonymous church leader. Another leader says that he sees a great hunger among the Muslims to know more about Jesus: “The future of the church is with the Muslims.”

Another church leader adds: “People are impressed that Christians come to them, show them love and support them when they are from another religion. This is especially significant because their fellow Muslims fight them and even want to kill them.”

Will the church remain in Iraq?

All pastors and priests have seen the number of Christians in Baghdad declining because of migration and immigration. “I recently heard the patriarch say that emigration won’t stop, but he also told me that Christianity in Iraq won’t stop either. He thought that those who remain will have a big impact on the society. I agree with the patriarch. I think we should be optimistic about the future of the church. With IS, another pressure came upon us as Christians, but God uses this pressure. We are now reaching out to others and see new people coming into the church.”

Another pastor adds: “Iraq without a church? That will not happen. When you look at history, there has been persecution of the church throughout the centuries. The church has always come through the difficulties. We know that God is in charge and is leading.”

The Great Mosque of Samarra, Iraq
Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Kieron Monks, for CNN, reports on the damage and destruction of nineteen heritage sites you’ll now never see. The first –

Once the largest mosque in the world, built in the 9th century on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. The mosque is famous for the Malwiya Tower, a 52-meter minaret with spiralling ramps for worshipers to climb. Among Iraq’s most important sites, it even featured on banknotes. The site was bombed in 2005, in an insurgent attack on a NATO position, destroying the top of the minaret and surrounding walls.

See and read about the other eighteen sites here.


The attack is the latest in the ISIS's violent rampage across Iraq.

Earlier this week, a series of images emerged showing the destruction of almost a dozen Shia and Sunni religious shrines in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and the town of Tal Afar, which is also currently under ISIS control.

Armed: The rebels, who are members of the Islamic State terror group, were filmed attacking centuries-old graves in the north-west city of Mosul in Ninevah province. Above, an ISIS militant vandalises a tombstone

Smash: Donning balaclavas and black coats, the rebels swung sledgehammers into the green tombstones

ISIS militants believe giving special veneration to tombs and relics is against the teachings of Islam.

Speaking of the latest attack, Ninevah official Zuhair Al-Chalabi, told IraqiNews.com: ' The elements of ISIS [have] controlled the mosque of the Prophet Younis in Mosul since they invaded the city.'

'[They] engaged in the process of tampering with the contents of the Mosque. It is still held by them until now.'

The shrine of the Prophet Seth (Shayth) was also destroyed by rebels, according to reports.

Revered tomb: One of the devastated tombstones belonged to the Prophet Jonah (Younis in Arabic) and was revered by Muslims and Christians alike, authorities said. Another belonged to the Prophet Seth (Shayth)

It comes as more than 50 bodies have been discovered by Iraqi authorities in an agricultural area outside the city of Hillah, just south of Baghdad, today.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan Ibrahim said most of the 53 bodies were found blindfolded with their hands bound and several gunshot wounds.

The grisly discovery in Hillah, a predominantly Shiite city around 60 miles south of Baghdad, has raised concerns over a possible sectarian killing amid the battle against a Sunni insurgency.

Brig Gen Maan said an investigation was underway to determine the identities of the dead, as well as the circumstances of the killings .

ISIS have been attacking a host of historical sites across Iraq as part of their terror campaign

The dead were all men between the ages of 25 and 40, and it appeared they had been killed a few days earlier and then dumped in the remote area, said a local police officer and a medical official.

They officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

A lightning sweep by the insurgents over much of northern and western Iraq in the past month has dramatically hiked tensions between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority.

At the same time, splits have grown between the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and the Kurdish autonomic region in the north.

Destroyed: The photographs were posted on a website which frequently carries official statements from the Islamic State extremist group

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today accused the Kurdish zone of being a haven for the extremists and other Sunni insurgents.

The claims are likely to further strain Baghdad's ties with Kurds, whose fighters have been battling the militant advance.

Mr al-Maliki lashed out at the Kurds in his weekly televised statement, saying 'everything that has been changed on the ground must be returned' - a reference to disputed territory Kurdish fighters have taken.

He went a step further, saying: 'We can't stay silent over Irbil being a headquarters for Daesh, Baath, al-Qaida and the terrorists.'

Daesh is the acronym in Arabic for the Islamic State group, often used as a pejorative by its opponents, while the Baath was the party of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

But Mr al-Maliki provided no evidence to back up his claims, which are sure to be rejected by Kurdish leaders in Irbil. Evidence on the ground also contradicts his allegations.

While the motives in this case remain unclear, such killings hark back to the worst days of Iraq's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007.

At that time, with a Sunni insurgency raging, Shiite militias and Sunni militant groups were notorious for killings of members of the other sect.

Bodies were frequently dumped by roads, in empty lots, ditches and canals. As the levels of violence dropped over time, such discoveries became rare.

But sectarian tensions have soared once more and authorities have once again begun to find unidentified bodies since the Sunni militant offensive swept across much of northern and western Iraq.

The militant surge is led by the Islamic State extremist group, but other Sunni insurgents have joined, feeding off anger in their minority community against the Shiite-led government.

Prime Minister: Nouri al-Maliki today accused the Kurdish autonomic region in the north of being a haven for the extremists and Sunni insurgents. He said: 'Everything that has been changed on the ground must be returned'

On the other side, Shiite militias have rallied around Mr al-Maliki's government to fight back against the militant advance.

In the far north, Kurds have taken advantage of the mayhem to seize disputed territory - including the city of Kirkuk, a major oil centre - and move closer to a long-held dream of their own state.

Kurdish fighters say they only want to protect the areas from Sunni militants. Many of the areas have significant Kurdish populations that they have demanded for years be incorporated into their territory.

These moves have infuriated Mr al-Maliki, who is under pressure from opponents as well as former allies to step down.

The photographs of the destroyed churches and mosques that emerged last week were posted on a website which frequently carries official statements from ISIS.

Some of them showed bulldozers plowing through walls, while others featured buildings being demolished by explosives in a cloud of smoke and rubble.

Three Sunni clerics were also killed by ISIS gunmen in Mosul after calling on locals to reject the terror group and refusing to leave the city, authorities said.

The victims were Khattab Hassan, 43, Riyadh al-Wandi, 39, and 48-year-old Abdul Ghafoor Salman.

Today, archbishops from Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk said the violence in Iraq is hastening the end of nearly 2,000 years of Christianity there as the few remaining faithful flee Islamic State militants.

War and sectarian conflict have shrunk Iraq's Christian population to about 400,000 from 1.5million before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 , they said on a visit to Brussels seeking European Union help to protect their flocks.

And now, even those who stayed are leaving for Turkey, Lebanon and western Europe, they claimed.

The three - Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Yohanna Petros Mouche and Kirkuk's Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Youssif Mirkis - are all Eastern Catholics whose churches have their own traditional liturgy but are loyal to the pope in Rome.

'The next days will be very bad. If the situation does not change, Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq,' said Sako, who is based in Baghdad

'If they leave, their history is finished.'


M ore than 50 bodies have been discovered by Iraqi authorities in an agricultural area outside the city of Hillah, just south of Baghdad, today.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan Ibrahim said most of the 53 bodies were found blindfolded with their hands bound and several gunshot wounds.

The grisly discovery in Hillah, a predominantly Shiite city around 60 miles south of Baghdad, has raised concerns over a possible sectarian killing amid the battle against a Sunni insurgency.

Brig Gen Maan said an investigation was underway to determine the identities and sectarian affiliation of the dead, as well as the circumstances of the killings .

The dead were all men between the ages of 25 and 40, and it appeared they had been killed a few days earlier and then dumped in the remote area, said a local police officer and a medical official.

They officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

A lightning sweep by the insurgents over much of northern and western Iraq in the past month has dramatically hiked tensions between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority.

Subsumed sites: All Saints Church, Alton Priors, Wiltshire England

A guest feature by Littlestone. This article first appeared on The Modern Antiquarian in November 2008.

One of two trapdoors with sarsens beneath them
Image credit and © Littlestone

Pulling in to a dead-end bit of road by Alton Priors church (now closed off by a farm gate) I was about to head across the field towards the church when a herd of cows started ambling by with a few of their calves in tow I held back behind the gate to let them pass (good thing too because the cows were being gently herded forward by a very handsome and very big black bull). Halfway across the field, and between the gate and the church, I passed someone coming in the opposite direction. The gentleman turned out to be the landowner and he told me, as we stood chatting in his field, that his family had farmed the area for more than a hundred years (and that the big black bull was really a bit of a softie).

I asked the gentleman if the church was open and he assured me that it was. I asked him if he knew anything about the sarsen stones under the church floor and he assured me they were there. We talked a little more and then he casually mentioned that I should also take a look at the 1,700 year-old yew tree in the churchyard and the spring that rose close by. I thanked him for his time and we parted.

The church was indeed open. Hot English summer without, cool sacredness within. Just your regular little country church. But where were the trapdoors leading to another sacredness? I ambled about the church for a bit then spotted a trapdoor that was partly boarded over and couldn’t be lifted.* Disappointed, I was about to leave when I spotted another trapdoor. Kneeling alone there in the silence, slowly pulling the clasp and watching as the trapdoor lifted to reveal a sarsen stone below was… mmm… more than a little magical.

I went outside and spent some time under the ancient yew tree in the churchyard – then tried to find the spring that the farmer had mentioned. I found the stream but everything else was too overgrown and the day too hot to look for more.

Alton Priors is a very, very special place. A little church built upon a sarsen circle set in the Vale of Pewsey. I’ve been to a lot of circles but none have had the sense of continuity that Alton Priors has. Go there and be at home (the church is open during the summer months at other times the key can be obtained from one of the nearby houses).

* Since writing this the larger of the two trapdoors can now be lifted revealing a sarsen beneath. There is also a sarsen under the north-east buttress. See also The Church of St Peter’s, Clyffe Pypard, Wiltshire England.

Watch the video: Islamic State Militants Blow Up 2,000 Year Old Baalshamin Temple In Ancient City (July 2022).


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