ASOR's Cultural Heritage Committee Responds to the Destruction in Mosul
The recent video released by ISIS showing the wanton destruction of archaeological artifacts in the Mosul Museum and at Nineveh has been widely and loudly deplored, including by ASOR. More pernicious still is the wide-scale and systematic looting of archaeological sites by ISIS, which supports its thriving, hypocritical, and illegal trade in antiquities. Attacks on archaeological sites and artifacts represent a brutal assault on our collective human memory, on the evidence of human endeavor and achievement. The smashed remains now testify to human folly and the senseless violence that drives ISIS. ISIS is destroying the evidence of the great history of Iraq – the original heartland of the world’s first cities and its earliest written texts. But the smashed artifacts of the Mosul Museum and Nineveh also speak to a wider ignorance of archaeology and the meaning of the artifacts that archaeologists recover, study, and preserve. Archaeologists clearly need to do more to expand a global understanding of, and appreciation for, the heritage of the past. In combating ISIS, expressions of outrage merely feed their global publicity machine – a publicity built on the absurdity and vanity of men dressed in neat clean clothes wielding sledgehammers for the benefit of the camera. Children are not born to hate and to destroy – it is, sadly, taught. What is needed is more archaeology education globally – in Iraq and other ISIS-affected countries and among people everywhere – in order to help communities understand the fragility of the archaeological record and its critical importance to understanding humanity. Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about the world’s peoples, cultures, and history is one of the best ways to eradicate destructive hatred and violence.
Learn more about ASOR's Syrian Heritage Initiative.