|Nineveh, the Ancient Assyrian Capital Reduced to Rubble by the IS|
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Nineveh, the Ancient Assyrian Capital Reduced to Rubble by the IS
Latin American Herald Tribune
ERBIL, Iraq – On the east bank of the Tigris river, very close to the embattled city of Mosul, stand the ruins of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital founded in 700 BC by King Sennacherib.
Although Iraqi government forces managed last week to liberate the site, archaeologists have been unable to enter and evaluate the damage due to the presence of booby traps and mines left behind by the Islamic State terror group, who in 2014 looted it and reduced it to rubble.
Archeologist Faisal Yeber, from the Gilgamesh Center for Antiquities and Heritage Protection, told EFE that with satellite imagery and long distance viewing it is clear that the 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) walls surrounding the mythical Assyrian capital have now been almost completely obliterated.
During the past two and a half years, the IS also destroyed the city gates that had been excavated to date – the Mashki Gate (Gate of the Watering Places) and Nergal Gate (named in honor of a God), the only two remaining gates, out of 14 or 15 that existed, to what once was the world’s most majestic city.
"The IS even built a new street, carved through the walls and archeological site, that they named 'Califate'," said Yeber, who in 2015 founded the Gilgamesh Center along with other experts to inform and alert about the systematic destruction of the heritage being demolished by the militants.
A small neighborhood has also sprouted inside the archeological enclosure as the militants allowed residents to build within the site and sold plots of land to finance the war, the expert added.
Yeber admitted that the sale of lands within the archeological site is nothing new, as it was common practice during the early 20th century, although only farming was allowed as it is located on a hill in a green and fertile area.
He said the IS also allowed excavations and whoever found archeological remains had to pay them a tax.
On Kuyunyik hill stand the remains of Ashurnasirpal's palace, the son of Sennacherib who reigned from 668 to 627 b.C. and under whose rule Nineveh flourished, with the building of new palaces, temples and a library housing 30,000 cuneiform tablets with every possible sort of inscription on them, from poetry to legislation to the imperial accounting records.
Many of these valuable tablets ended up in London's British Museum, while other Nineveh antiquities stored in the Mosul museum suffered the IS' iconoclast savagery – in 2015 the terror group systematically destroyed many treasured objects from the 7th and 8th century BC with drills and hammers.
Nonetheless, Yeber said that very little had been excavated, and thus they only managed to destroy less than 10 percent of the ancient capital.
Small and medium-sized artifacts were sold on the black market, Yeber explained, and illegal archeological trafficking has been one of the financing channels used by IS in Iraq and Syria.
On the other hand, Leyla Saleh, head of Antiquities of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, told EFE that the Nabi Yunes sanctuary where it is believed prophet Jonas is buried has been completely demolished.
The mosque, built on top of the alleged tomb of the biblical character inside Nineveh's enclosure, was dynamited by the militants soon after they occupied Mosul.
A UNESCO representative in Iraq, Mary Shaar, told EFE that they are unable to evaluate the true extent of the damage until they can access old Nineveh, although they fear the damage has been considerable.
"Nineveh was on the candidacy shortlist to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site," said Shaar due to its walls and gates, which have now been converted into rubble.
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