Syria’s Historical Artifacts Aren’t Just Being Destroyed By ISIS, They’re Being Looted

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The first reports that Islamic State militants were destroying cultural heritage sites came soon after the group seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria last year. Such accounts have since become commonplace.

The famed ancient Assyrian capital of Khorsabad, which had survived for 2,700 years, was reportedly ransacked and razed this month. Also in March, militants reportedly bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrud, and leveled the 2000-year-old city of Hatra. A shrine believed to be the tomb of biblical figure Jonah was blown up in July as onlookers wept.

In the extremist-held city of Mosul, thousands of books have been burned. Videos posted online show militants smashing artifacts in the Mosul Museum. The list of lost treasures goes on.

The Islamic State group, motivated by a violent interpretation of Sunni Islam, believes religious shrines heretical and has said it considers their destruction its duty. There is abundant evidence, however, that monuments and artifacts in territory under Islamic State control are not just being destroyed, but also are being looted on an unprecedented scale. Some believe these looted antiquities are part of a multi-million dollar smuggling industry that helps fund Islamic State extremists.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s comparisons of satellite imagery of archaeological sites in Syria show many cultural sites have been looted and damaged during the four-year civil war. In the ancient walled city of Dura Europa in eastern Syria, for instance, images show that thousands of “looting —> Read More