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Iraqi museum refuge for relics of the past

After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by ISIS, the collections at Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important

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After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by ISIS, the collections at Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It’s now one of the only places you can find relics from the ancient cities that fell into the extremists’ hands.

his file photo taken on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, shows a detail of a statue of Lamassu, the great winged bull from the Assyrian period displayed at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. (AP)
his file photo taken on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, shows a detail of a statue of Lamassu, the great winged bull from the Assyrian period displayed at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. (AP)

As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of ISIS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Cuture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. The sites in their grip show the multiple civilizations that rose and fell during Iraq’s history, ranging from mosques, churches and small shrines to large sites of old cities.

Among the most significant ancient sites the militants captured were several capitals of the Assyrian Empire during its height between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C. - sites known as Nimrud and Khorsabad - as well as Hatra, a well-preserved Roman-era city of temples. Videos put out by the Islamic State group showed its militants blowing up or smashing relics and structures at the sites.

In this Sunday, March 13, 2016 photo, stone figures from the ancient site of Hatra line a corridor of the Iraq National Museum the Iraqi capital. (AP)
In this Sunday, March 13, 2016 photo, stone figures from the ancient site of Hatra line a corridor of the Iraq National Museum the Iraqi capital. (AP)

But some of the relics from those sites had been moved long ago to the National Museum. In its Assyrian Hall tower two great winged bulls with human heads, protective deities known as Lamassu, framing a statue from the temple of Nabu, the god of wisdom. Along the walls run bas-reliefs from the palace of King Sargon in Khorsabad.

Rwandzi said museums are more important than ever. “A nation without a museum is like a human without eyes,” he said.

n this Wednesday, July 29, 2015 file photo, an Assyrian artifact is displayed at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)
n this Wednesday, July 29, 2015 file photo, an Assyrian artifact is displayed at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP)