ancient art a prime target for jihadists
In June 2014, IS fighters
overran Mosul and set about selling, destroying
priceless artefacts that they claimed violated
Image grab from video released by IS shows
jihadists toppling ancient statue, Feb. 26, 2015
MOSUL - The Mosul museum that Iraqi
security forces have now recaptured from the
Islamic State group housed ancient works of
art that made it a prime target for the
Founded in 1952, the museum was the second
largest in Iraq, had four halls and was set
to reopen in 2014 after rebuilding work made
necessary by looting after the US-led
invasion in 2003.
Before the first Gulf War (1990-1991), the
museum housed more than 1,000 objects,
according to Lamia Gailani, research
associate at the Department of the Languages
and Cultures of Near and Middle East at SOAS
University of London.
Among the priceless artefacts were many that
dated to the Assyrian and Hellenistic
The Mosul region was home to a mosaic of
minorities, including the Assyrian
Christians who consider themselves to be the
region's indigenous people.
Before IS arrived, many portable antiquities
had already been transferred to the National
Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, but heavy
immovable statues and wall reliefs remained
In June 2014, IS fighters overran Mosul and
set about selling or destroying works that
they claimed violated Islamic tenets against
The jihadists videoed themselves smashing
priceless artefacts to feed the group's
Footage released in February 2015 showed
militants knocking statues from their
plinths and smashing them, although clouds
of white dust indicated that some were
simply plaster copies.
However, experts estimated that around 90
works were destroyed, most of them
Jihadists also scaled a monumental granite
Assyrian winged bull at the nearby Nergal
Gate, which was almost 3,000 years old, and
relentlessly attacked it with pneumatic
Their rampage was compared to the Taliban's
2001 dynamiting of the famed Buddhas of
Bamiyan in Afghanistan.
Mosul museum initially consisted of three
main exhibition spaces, according to UNESCO.
The Assyrian Gallery displayed objects, many
of which were stone originals, from the
ninth to the sixth centuries BC.
The Hatra Gallery documented a caravan city
that blossomed in the first century BC and
the first century AD, and contained stone
statues of the city's citizens and kings.
The Islamic Gallery did not appear in the IS
video, and the fate of original stone
antiquities it contained is not yet clear.
Middle East Online