Subscribe to our Newsletter

The Quiet Death of Monuments in Iraq

June 20, 2016. An excellent article by Christopher Jones, The Cleansing of Mosul, fills in gaps in the coverage of site destruction by ISIS forces in that region. Jones’ article, on the gatesofnineveh website, deals with severe destruction in Mosul, Iraq that has received far less press than Palmyra and other Syrian sites where ISIS or competing forces deliberately seek media attention. It appears that in Mosul, ISIS’ campaign of ideological purity is quieter, but even more destructive than in other regions under its control.

Jones utilizes satellite photographs from Digital Globe/ASOR to analyze the continuing destruction of sites from the Place of Senacherib to the Mosul War Cemetery.

As Jones’ title suggests, the destruction of sites in Mosul is far worse than the simple effacement of iconic imagery that has occurred in some other locations. In Mosul, ISIS has obliterated monuments, using bulldozers to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Some 100 reliefs remained in the Palace of Senacherib after the 1847 excavations; the palace became a museum. (Some reliefs from the site are preserved at the British Museum.) Jones shows that the reliefs are gone and internal walls and pillars removed. Jones notes that truck tracks indicate that materials could have been removed –  or destroyed. Both the archeological originals and reconstructed Adad and Mashki gates at Nineveh were bulldozed. Tunneling may indicate either looting or the construction of bunkers in the ancient city.

The War Cemetery, where WW2 British and Commonwealth soldiers were buried alongside Polish soldiers, was seriously damaged before ISIS appeared, but now the remaining memorials there and in adjoining cemeteries have been reduced to rubble.

Jones provides photographs showing that sometime in August-September 2014, the Monastery of St. Elijah (Dair Mar Elia) south of Mosul, which dates to the late 6th century CE has been completely demolished. ISIS made no announcement, but press reports surfaced in January 2016.

Please see the original Christopher Jones article for additional background, site plans, and before-and-after photographs of the destruction.

Image: Satellite photo dated September 28, 2014 showing where the Dair Mar Elia monastery had been.

Share this post:Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter