Czech Scholars Chart the Destruction of Mosul Heritage

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tags: ISIS, ISIL, Ancient Artifacts, Cultural Heritage Sites



A team of Czech scholars is working to document architectural sites in Mosul that have been destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) since the terrorist group overran the city in June of 2014. Supported by the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, the project—called “Monuments of Mosul in Danger”—seeks to preserve for posterity an accounting of the devastating loss of antiquities at the hands of radical militants, whose videos posted online show them smashing relics and statues from Mosul Museum and the city of Hatra.

The team’s interest in studying Mosul is a natural continuation of their other research in Medieval Urban Landscape in Northeastern Mesopotamia. But ISIS’s seizure of the city and its barbaric attitude toward heritage accelerated their research in Mosul, says Miroslav Melčák, a historian from the Oriental Institute who specializes in the social and cultural medieval history of the Middle East. “The devastation of the city was so quick, and media reports were bringing terrible news about the scope of the destruction.” The scholars began to use satellite imagery to document the destroyed monuments.

Mosul has long been a crossroads of cultures. In the Islamic and Ottoman periods, it served as a meeting point for Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, Jews, Yazidis, and Shabaks. “All these peoples lived together peacefully most of the time,” said Karel Nováček, an archaeologist and historian of architecture at Palacký University in Olomouc. “It created a unique, multi-cultural atmosphere that is reflected in the architecture of the city.” Right up to the beginning of the thirteenth century, he said, peculiar architectural forms developed that were not linked to a single cultural group. While other examples of this cultural mix exist in cities in Iraq and the Near East, he said, Mosul is exceptional in terms of the intensity and length of this cultural exchange.




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