Thursday, 21 September 2017

Archaeologist Layla Salih

An extended piece about archaeologist Layla Salih from the Smithsonian Magazine by Joshua Hammer, Photographs by Alice Martins  'The Salvation of Mosul An Iraqi archaeologist braved ISIS snipers and booby-trapped ruins to rescue cultural treasures in the city and nearby legendary Nineveh and Nimrud'.
Dodging sniper fire and mortar blasts in a three-minute sprint down rubbled streets, she clambered through a hole that the terrorists had blasted into the Mosul Museum [...] Salih, a curator at the museum for a decade before the invasion, methodically documented the damage they had inflicted before fleeing. [...] The terrorists had cleaned out the Hatra Gallery, once filled with Greco-Roman-influenced marble statuary from Hatra, a pre-Islamic trading city on the major trading routes between the Roman Empire in the west and the Parthians in the east. They had also stolen 200 smaller objects—priceless remnants of the Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman empires—from a storage room. “I had had an idea about the destruction, but I didn’t think that it was this kind of scale,” said Salih, who had inventoried many of the artifacts herself over the years and knew precisely what had been stolen.  [...] This past January, Iraqi troops discovered a trove of 3,000-year-old Assyrian pottery stashed in a house in Mosul occupied by the Islamic State. Salih rushed into this combat zone after midnight to retrieve 17 boxes of stolen artifacts, including some of the world’s earliest examples of glazed earthenware, and arranged their shipment to Baghdad for safekeeping. “She is a very active person,” Muzahim Mahmoud Hussein, Iraq’s most famous archaeologist, who worked closely with Salih while serving as head of museums in Nineveh province before the Islamic State invasion, told me. “She has always been like that.” Maj. Mortada Khazal, who led the unit that recovered the pottery, said that “Layla is fearless.”
Were the Jonah's Tomb tunnels dug to loot or for military purposes?

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