Sunday 18 May 2014

Looting at Tell Ajuja Syria

The Assyrian International News Agency is carrying a shocking story with some truly upsetting photographs. According to them, "ISIS Destroys 3000 Year-old Assyrian Artifacts in Syria" AINA 17th May 2014.

According to a report from the website, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3000 years old.The Assyrian archaeological artifacts were illegally excavated from the Tell Ajaja site.
It then follows that brief statement by an odd piece of text:
Looting of Assyrian artifacts was also carried out in Iraq soon after 2003 by Al-Qaeda, which sold the artifacts to finance its operations. The looting occurred at the Baghdad Museum (AINA 2003-04-19) as well as archaeological sites which were left unguarded as a result of the collapse of the government of Saddam Hussein (AINA 2005-02-17).
As far as I know, that Al-Qaeda claim is not upheld. Obviously this piece is intended to discredit ISIL. Tell Ajaja is in the Lower Habur region (N 36°12'31.82" E 40°43'14.06"), and it has produced Neo-Assyrian sculptures. Looting is reported to have taken place on this site in April 2013, though this does not yet show up on any Google Earth shots. What is now being reported seems to be related to this. On the Tell Brak Facebook page, this was posted on May 13th this year, but then deleted:
Al-Hasakeh - Tell Ajajah: illegal excavations and intentional destruction of ancient statuesالحسكة - تل عجاجة : تنقیبات سرية وتدمير تماثيل أثرية Al-Hassaké - Tell Ajaja : Fouilles clandestines et acte de vandalisme. © photos Abou Mouseb-
According to information received from the south of Al-Hasakeh region, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has arrested looters of antiquities and intentionally destroyed ancient statues dating back to the Assyrian period found during illicit excavations at Tell Ajaja. تشير المعلومات الاولية الواردة من جنوب الحسكة الى قيام تنظيم الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام - داعش- باعتقال لصوص اثار ومصاردة وتدمير تماثيل اثرية تعود للفترة الاشورية عثر عليها خلال عمليات التنقيب الغير شرعية في تل عجاجة. الصور : أبو مصعب. Selon des informations provenant de la région de Hassekeh, l'État Islamique en Irak et au Levant (EIIL) a arrêté des pilleurs et détruit plusieurs statues datées de l'époque assyrienne et pillées sur site de Tell Ajaja

The link it gives is now inactive. I've been looking at the photos that are circulating via Twitter. The two hairy guys are posing at the top with what seems to me to be a genuine ancient statue. But is it the same statue as we see being smashed in the photo mounted below it?  It is difficult to say, but is not the shape of the back of the head different? The pose of the hands too? The one being smashed is awfully white, like its made of plaster, but then Neo-Assyrian figures were sometimes made of alabaster/gypsum.

The two pictures showing two other statues, one on the flatbed of a truck are a different matter.

Look at the curls of the edge of the beard, is that right? The whole thing is very 'chunky' and box-like, those hands look wrong.

The fourth photo shows yet another one. Apart from the wobbly robes at the bottom, is that not a trowel-stroke on the right thigh? Isn't this made of cement or plaster?  The facial features and hair are rather sketchily done and irregular.

Where, actually, did these photos surface, who took them and with what aim? Are all the objects it shows genuine antiquities, or is somebody using destruction of antiquities to "push the button" of sensitive folk who are more shocked by this than the other destruction of this conflict?

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