The Temple of Ashur, an archaeological masterpiece facing danger of disappearing

IRAQ – Smithsonian Magazine, which is published in America and devoted to the study of antiquities, highlighted the archaeological Temple of Assyria. The temple, which is on the western bank of the Tigris River and one of the largest archaeological sites in Iraq, is in danger of demise.

According to the report of the American Journal of Antiquities, Assyria was a rich center of regional trade, lying along a major caravan route and part of a particularly profitable trade relationship with Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). At the present temple site were about six million clay bricks covered with sheets of iron and lead, “and now the great heap seemed to melt like wax.”

The director of the archaeological site of Ashur, Salem Abdullah, said that only a small part of the history of this site, which is supposed to have housed 117 Assyrian kings, has been excavated. “When these kings died, they were buried here,” he added, but so far only three royal tombs have been identified. He revealed that archaeologists have worked on the site intermittently. “For the Iraqis, it’s an expensive process, the government can’t afford it,” he said when explaining that the last excavation ended in 2002. Abdullah estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the site is still unexplored.

The report pointed out the need to secure the site, explaining that the residents of the surrounding city treat this archaeological site as a local park and walk around during picnics, which increases the risk of its survival as evidence of an important historical era.

The report also drew attention to looting operations, some of which have affected the assets of this important historical landmark, and also mentioned that when it rains, the soil is washed away, and artifacts, including pieces of pottery, tablets and cuneiform statues, appear on the surface of the earth and thus are vulnerable to theft.

In 2015, the site’s gate was severely damaged when fighters of terrorist organization Islamic State cut a huge hole in it, according to the report.

The antiquities of Iraq have been looted for decades, especially during the stage during which the Islamic State took control of large parts of the country in 2014, and recovering these looted pieces is one of the main challenges of the current government.