Friday, 27 February 2015

Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum

Chris Jones has a depressing text on his Gates of Nineveh blog: 'Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum, Part 1: The Assyrian Artifacts' (Feb 27, 2015). The text clearly explains what was damaged where.
Most of the destroyed artifacts fall into two categories: Sculptures from the Roman period city of Hatra, situated in the desert to the south of Mosul, and Assyrian artifacts from Nineveh and surrounding sites such as Khorsabad and Balawat.
Jones notes that many of the smaller objects in the museum had been moved at the time of the US-led invasion and were still (?) in Baghdad, ISIL were destroying the larger pieces which could not be moved so easily during that evacuation, and cannot easily be smuggled and sold now, and were ideal for propaganda purposes. The objects we see in the video being  destroyed in the museum included a number of replicas of Assyrian objects held elsewhere, while others are likely genuine. Sadly, the second part of his text will concern the destruction of sculptures from Hatra in the Museum, which he says appears to be even more devastating.

Vignette: ISIL visits a museum 

UPDATE 1st March 2015

Lamia Al Gailani Werr supplied a list of the contents of the Mosul Museum at the time ISIS invaded Mosul but notes that Museum staff have not been allowed in the Museum since that time, so it is unknown if anything was stolen before the men with sledgehammers got to work.
Assyrian Gallery
There are 24 Assyrian reliefs and statues from Nimrud and Nineveh, all of them are genuine with the exception of three reliefs of battle and hinting scenes.
Hatra Gallery
There are 30 statues and reliefs only four are casts, they are:
1- Statue of Hercules
2- Seated female holding a sphere in one hand.
3- Relief of of the horoscope.
4- a restored spread-winged eagle, part original stone, repaired with gypsum.
Islamic Gallery
30 objects, all originals. They were not shown in the video.
A few objects in the store rooms, one fragmentary statue of Ashurbanipal II and pottery mostly broken objects.

It is noted that the date of the rampage in the museum is unknown, but she ascertained that "the damage at the Nergal gate happened a few days ago".

It occurs to me that ISIL may have recognised that despite their size there is a market for these sculptures and it is one possibility that the Islamic items are not shown in this video being smashed because they have been reserved for sale in neighbouring Moslem countries (the Gulf states?) which are suspected as being a source for some of ISIL funding and on whom they may be increasingly forced to rely should the oil money falter and the payment of ransoms is stopped. Videos like this mean that the buyers can pretend to themselves that they are 'saving the art'.  On the other hand, it may well be that their propagandists are planning a second video from Mosul Museum with even more atrocities intended to shock.While tragic, we must remember these are just stones, and the real tragedy is the human cost of the circumstances leading up to and involved in the attempted establishment of this new state.

Meanwhile, disgustingly, the IAPN and PNG's paid lobbyist has a post on his nasty hate-blog "Destruction at the Mosul Museum: Who Cares?" suggesting that the locals don't care about the heritage. Nasty Amerocentric, xenophobic point-scoring sniping as usual from the US antiquities dealers lobby. Perhaps the more observant among us might recall the case of Samira Saleh al-Naimi reported  in September 2014 ('Execution of Human Rights Activist in Mosul, she Criticised Destruction of Historical Monuments').

UPDATE 4.3.15

In a striking illustration of the power of the archaeoblog to get information out in the public forum quickly and efficiently (where is UNESCO?), Christopher Jones ‏has now added a second part to his blog 'Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum, Part 2: The Sculptures from Hatra'. He has obviously done this with great care and devoted a lot of time to this in order to get the information out as soon as possible.
The damage by ISIS to the artistic legacy of Hatra has been catastrophic.This tragedy is compounded by the fact that Hatrene sculpture has been chronically understudied.[...] Regardless, from what we can see in this video the loss for the study the Roman and Parthian Near East is absolutely devastating.

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