Assyrian sculptures in ISIS tunnels under devastated prophet’s tomb

During documentation of ISIS destruction of the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, inscriptions and sculptures dating back to the Assyrian empire were found.

Assyrian stone sculptures in the tunnels (by AFP)

The ISIS jihadists dug the network of tunnels to plunder artefacts under a hill housing the tomb of Prophet Jonah, the Nabi Yunus shrine which they blew up in July 2014. After the Iraqi authorities recaptured east Mosul in the end of January, an underground labyrinth, from which IS plundered to sell on the black market, was discovered. Most of the discovered artefacts date to the seventh century BC and are connected with the palace of King Esarhaddon whose existence in the area was known to Iraqi archaeologists.

Marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon (by Jérémy André)

Within the tunnels two mural sculptures in white marble show the winged bulls with only the sides and feet showing. One of the cuneiform inscriptions of King Esarhaddon is thought to date back to the period Assyrian empire in 672BC. The palace was renovated and expanded by King Esarhaddon after it was built for his father Sennacherib. It was partly destroyed during a ransacking as part of the Battle of Nineveh in 612 BC.

Winged bull carved into the palace (by AFP)

Archaeologists also unearthed two Assyrian empire-era winged bull sculptures within the tunnels carved in white marble, with only the sides and feet showing. In another section of ISIS tunnel the archaeologists found Assyrian stone sculptures of a demi-goddess, pictured spreading “the water of life” to protect humans.

Assyrian stone sculpture (by Jérémy André)

According to the researchers, other removable artefacts, especially pottery, were certainly plundered.  It is believed that the ISIS terrorists robbed many of the artefacts, such as pottery and smaller pieces, away to sell. But what they left is being studied and will add a lot to the knowledge of the period.

Devastated tomb of Prophet Jonah (by Reuters)

According to the authorities, at least 66 archaeological sites have been destroyed, some of them transformed into parking lots. Muslim and Christian places of worship have suffered massive destruction, and thousands of manuscripts have disappeared. It is believed that more than 700 archaeological items had been exhumed from the tunnels of Nabi Yunus and sold on the black market.

(after The Telegraph, France24, Reuters, Daily Mail Online, Jérémy André & AFP)

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