‘Ancient’ statues filmed being destroyed by depraved Islamic State militants in a Mosul museum last month were nothing more than worthless fakes, the director of an Iraqi museum has claimed.
The terrorist organization released shocking footage at the end of February purportedly showing jihadis destroying 3,000-year-old artworks with sledgehammers in their northern Iraqi stronghold.
But now Baghdad museum director Fawzye al-Mahdi has ridiculed ISIS’ propaganda exercise, claiming the genuine priceless Assyrian and Akkadian statues and sculptures are still safely in his possession in the Iraqi capital, adding that those in Mosul were plaster cast replicas.
Within hours of the original ISIS propaganda video being released, analysts questioned why the statues appeared to crumble so easily.
Others stated that they couldn’t possibly be 3,000 years old as some of the are clearly held together by iron poles – a considerably more modern practice.
Mark Altaweel, an expert at the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London, told Channel 4 News at the time: ‘You can see iron bars inside… The originals don’t have iron bars.’
Propaganda: Baghdad museum director Fawzye al-Mahdi ridiculed ISIS’ video, claiming the genuine Assyrian and Akkadian statues are safely in Baghdad and that those in Mosul were plaster cast replicas
Following the February video release, Mosul’s exiled governor Atheel Nuafi also stated that the vast majority of the statues were fakes, but added that at least two of those destroyed were originals.
‘There were two items that were real and which the militants destroyed. One is a Winged Bull and the other was the God of Rozhan,’ the Saudi-based Al Arabiya news organisation quoted him as saying.
The Winged Bull, which is seen being smashed with sledgehammers in the video, is probably one which stood at the gates of Nineveh in the 7th century BC, claimed the International Business Times.
‘I think the Winged Bull is very important locally, because it’s one of the few objects that hasn’t left the country or gone to Baghdad,’ Eleanor Robson, chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, told the news organisation.
Real: An ISIS militant uses a power tool to destroy a 7th century winged-bull Assyrian protective deity. The statue is thought to have been one of only two genuine artifacts destroyed by ISIS in the video
Until 2003, Mosul museum had the second biggest collection of ancient relics in Iraq, including thousands of items from Nineveh and other ancient centers of Northern Mesopotamia.
Amid the Western military operation against Saddam Hussein that year, looters ransacked the building. Employees managed to save the majority of the items, and then moved most to Baghdad.
ISIS militants began destroying ancient statues and monuments shortly after they first seized control of Mosul last summer, describing them as ‘worthless idols’.
A man shown in the video said the items were being destroyed because they promoted idolatry.
‘The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,’ the unidentified man said.
Historic loss: Large segments of the priceless winged-bull Assyrian protective deity are hurled to the ground as militants smash it to pieces
Mosul, the biggest city in the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, boasts a relatively educated, diverse population that seeks to preserve its heritage sites and libraries.
In the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, residents near the Central Library hid some of its centuries-old manuscripts in their own homes to prevent their theft or destruction by looters.
But this time, the Islamic State group has made the penalty for such actions death.
A University of Mosul history professor, who spoke on condition he not be named because of his fear of the Islamic State group, said the extremists started wrecking the collections of other public libraries in December.
He reported particularly heavy damage to the archives of a Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library with works dating back to 5000 BC.