Sunday, 12 April 2015

When was Nimrud Video Made?

Note position of pens in arm pocket
Several people have been looking at the Nimrud 'snuff movie' video for clues as to when it was shot. Christopher Jones noted on the IraqCrisis discussion list: "From scrutinizing the video I cannot see anything that indicates different parts were shot on different days. Same lighting, same weather, same people throughout the video. It would seem to me these explosions were set recently, after last month's media feeding frenzy on reports of destruction at Nimrud and Hatra". The reply from Lynda Albertson notes: "Black beanie'd mouthpiece is the same person as in the Mosul museum video. Either he has a uniform he wears when destroying heritage or these were possibly taken on the same day. P[e]ns in pocket are different but other than that the attire is identical, dishdashah with workman's vest". She notes that one set of shots of the detonation was taken from top of the Ziggurat facing the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II. Christopher Jones adds that "his wristwatch is different too though. I suspect it's possible he owns a large number of off-white dishdashas and wears the same vest and hat every day. However his beard does not seem to have grown in between videos, either that or he just trimmed it back to exactly as long as it was before". Charles E. Jones (the list moderator) adds to the thread a bald statement: "A reliable source tells me the destruction at Nimrud happened on 2 April 2015". The video of the same guy in Mosul Museum however cannot have been taken that late, it had appeared on the Internet by or on 26th February 2015. Since the whole "Nimrud Destroyers" video is theatrical in the extreme and obviously posed for the cameras, perhaps his identical dress is in some way related to this? 

I thought it might be productive to look at the toolkits. In both videos two jack hammers are shown in action. They are different tools however. At Nimrud they are yellow and cleaner (and the people using them are differently dressed). There is an angle-grinder in operation at Nimrud but a different tool in the destruction of the Nergal Gate in the February video. It looks like the Nimrud Destroyers arrived at the site bringing professional tools and equipment from some site where large scale engineering work (road construction?) is going on, while the Mosul Museum gang were using what might be found on any building site in town.

At 4.32 mins in the Nimrud video where the bulldozer is seen in action a man briefly crosses in front of the camera carrying a distinctive sledge hammer with a ragged haft painted green. It seems to me that one of the sledge hammers seen in action in the Mosul Museum also has a green-painted haft, in which case are the tools in use on both sites taken from the same store? Or is painting a tool shaft green some kind of more widespread apotropic practice?

I think when you look at the shape of the area destroyed and size of it, it becomes clear that the craters we see were made by more than the single row of barrel bombs we see in the film. In the video we see four shots of the explosions. The first (6:16 mins) and the second (6:21) seem likely to be the same one, seen from the northwest of the site (fence) and from the ziggurat (note the camera shake). The fourth shot of clouds of dust rising from the ruins was taken from the fields the other side of the canal to the west. I wonder whether the third explosion (6:27) is not a different one, the shot is taken from  the southeast. On reflection though in none of the shots are there signs that there are already-ruined buildings in the background or foreground, and that this explosion may well be the back-side of the same one as in the other three shots. What is interesting though is that they had at least four teams of cameramen out in the fields around the site to record the shock wave and dust clouds.

My curiosity is roused by the grey powder packed into those barrels. It seems these are IEDs made of fertiliser, but I am not clear what fertiliser, used unadulterated is so explosive. Any ideas? Why is the Mosul branch of ISIL resorting to IEDs anyway? Have they run out of real explosives?

I was also interested in comparing the photo posted by Lynda Albertson (from here) of the NW palace seen from the ziggurat in 1990 and what the video shows the site looked like just before the explosion. The scale of neglect to the site in recent years is clear, some fences have gone for example, areas are overgrown. It is possible to see where the ISIL bulldozer was operating and where they dumped the wall slabs. It becomes clear that they made three breaches in the north wall of the site. Was this to get the barrel-IEDs and truck loads of fertiliser bags in? Or were the holes made to get something out before it was blown up? 
Comparison of state of NW palace in 1990 and 2015
If you look at the northwestern portal you can see something has been done to the west jamb - has a lamassu been removed here? If you look at the reconstruction of the palace done by the Metropolitan Museum, the film shows the lamassu at the entrance to the throne room. It was still there in 1990, but gone by 2015. Where did it go?  When was it removed and why? When we see the bulldozer dumping wall slabs, were these the 'waste' from the removal of other sculptured elements that are destined for the market? If so, will the people who buy them kid themselves they are 'saving' them?

So when did all this happen? The Iraqi authorities were reporting destruction at Nimrud on 5th March, although Charles E. Jones' "reliable source" states that this video was shot a month after that (April 2nd - though on what grounds is not clear), I wonder whether what we see here is not in fact destruction carried out at the beginning of March. The satellite photos would tell us - but note that the State Department and its team are most reluctant to share them with us...

If that is so, it would mean that the Mosul Museum film was made just before it was released, and not, as some including myself were half-suspecting, several weeks or months earlier soon after the Museum fell into ISIL hands.


lalbertson said...

Easy to confuse but Charles E Jones moderates the list-serv and commented on the attire of the protagonist. Christopher Jones is a Ph.D candidate in Ancient History at Columbia University who has been ID's statuary at the sites and posting the results at the Gates of Nineveh blog. Photo I mentioned taken from ziggurat at Nimrud was a 1990 confirmation photo I attached for people who don't know the site's layout. I haven't commented on angle of detonation photos as thy seem to be from multiple angles. My comment was in reference to screenshot which confirms the site is the palace. Thanks!

Paul Barford said...

I don't think I've confused them. It was Christopher Jones who commented on the bloke's attire.

I made reference to your photo for the same reason.

lalbertson said...

Was reading before coffee, gotthe fellas names confused. I was referring to "She notes that one set of shots of the detonation was taken from top of the Ziggurat facing the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II." The photo taken at the top is the 1990 one. Have you seen the "tween" photo I posted on ARCA's site. You can see a good deal of difference between 1990 and this destruction. Great summary!

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