Saving the Ancient Assyrian Capital, Nineveh

In modern day Mosul, Iraq, Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire, is slowly falling to ruins amid years of looting, vandalism, natural forces and, most recently, suburban encroachment and war. According to The Global Heritage Fund, it is one of the top twelve sites most in danger of suffering permanent and irreparable damages. The once-great architecture is now merely ruins, but even these ruins face the threat of further destruction.

Over 2700 years ago, Nineveh was a city teeming with life, with a population of over 100,000 people, and was the setting of many biblical scenes in the Old and New Testaments. An important archeological site, Nineveh has been excavated and studied since the 19th century and has provided many important facts about the Assyrian Empire in ways other sites could not. Interesting discoveries include many palaces, skeletons who died in the result of the city’s final battle, and prisms.

In modern times, this once-great city has been the victim of theft and vandalism, and the expansion of Mosul suburbs is closing in on the site, creating many problems. But what I feel is the biggest issue is that the war in Iraq is distracting focus and attention away from the pressing issue of saving Nineveh. As Danny discussed in his post about the looting of the Iraqi museum in 2003 and the consequences of that disaster, the connection between modern political upheavals and ancient artifacts creates an interesting bridge of time and adds a new level of tension to the issues in the Middle East. Saving Nineveh is sadly not a top priority given the political climate of Iraq, but if measures are not taken, and plans put into action, this ancient Assyrian and important city could completely fall to ruin.

McLerran, Dan. “Saving Ancient Nineveh.” Popular Archaeology June 2011: Volume 3. Web. 6 Sept. 2011. <>.

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