With the government and military still absorbed in fighting the war against the Islamic State group in nearby Mosul, the wreckage of the Assyrian Empire’s ancient capital lies unprotected and vulnerable to looters. “When I heard about Nimrud, my heart wept before my eyes did,” said Hiba Hazim Hamad, an archaeology professor in Mosul who often took her students there. In three of the AP’s four visits, its team wandered the ruins alone freely for up to an hour before anyone arrived. No one is assigned to guard the site, much less catalog the fragments. Toppled stone slabs bearing a relief that the AP saw on one visit were gone when it returned.
Perhaps the only vigilant guardian left is an Iraqi archaeologist, Layla Salih. She has visited multiple times, photographing the wreckage to document it and badgering militias to watch over it. Walking through the ruins on a rainy winter day, she pointed out things that were no longer in place. Still, Salih finds reasons for optimism. “The good thing is the rubble is still in situ,” she said. “The site is restorable.”
To an untrained eye, that’s hard to imagine, seeing the destruction caused by the Islamic State group. Salih estimated 60 percent of the site was irrecoverable.
AP Photo by Maya Alleruzzo