Outcry as IS Destroy Ancient Iraq Site of Nimrud

Archaeologists are among those who have expressed their outrage regarding the destruction of the ancient Mesopotamian site of Nimrud by IS militants.  They began bulldozing the site, which was founded in the 13th century BC, on Thursday, according to officials in the area.

The head of the UN’s cultural agency described the act as a systematic destruction that would be counted as a ‘war crime’.

‘False idols’

IS controls large areas of both Syria and Iraq and claimed that the shrines and statues were ‘false idols’ and this was the reason that they had to destroy them.  One Iraqi archaeologists said that the militants are ‘erasing the country’s history’ with their acts.

Nimrud is on the Tigris River, 18 miles south-east of Mosul, which is currently held by IS.  Many of the artefacts that had been on the site had already been moved to museums around the world, including in Baghdad, but many more had remained on site.  One correspondent likened the destruction to the acts of destruction undertaken by the Taliban on the Bamiyan Buddha rock sculptures in Afghanistan in 2001.

Yet despite their reasoning for the destruction, IS still use the artefacts as a way to generate money and selling them is one of their key sources of revenue.


According to Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry, IS ‘assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles’ on Thursday.  It added that the militants continue to defy both the will of the world and the ‘feelings of humanity’ and called for a UN Security Meeting to discuss protecting the cultural heritage of the country.

Nimrud does cover a large area and it is unknown is the destruction is partial or total at this point.  But one local tribal source said that the IS members looted the valuables in the city then proceeded to level whatever was left.  The statues and walls as well as a castle that had been on the site were all said to have been destroyed.


The city was the capital of Assyria for over 150 years and the first modern excavation was started by visiting Europeans in the 1840s.  Investigations stopped for a number of years and were restarted in 1949 by Sir Max Mallowan, husband of writer Agatha Christie.  Treasures found in the site included sections of the royal palace, statues and many smaller artefacts.  However, an extensive photographic record was made of the remaining treasures in the 1970s.

One archaeologists said that he felt that Nimrud was still an important sites with much still be to discovered as well as what still stood on the site including reliefs, statues and the famous winged bulls.  He described it as a ‘nightmare he wished he could wake from.’


The reports follow the videos released last week showing militants in a museum in Mosel using sledgehammers to destroy the artefacts held there.  They again used their ‘false idols’ excuse for the destruction and attempted to justify the acts in religious terms.

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