Exclusive images show the destruction of the Nineveh Gates by ISIS

A set of exclusive images received by National Geographic has allowed researchers to confirm (regrettably) the destruction of the Mashki and Nergal Gates found at the ancient site of Nineveh in modern day Iraq.

The Nergal Gate in Nineveh was originally built around 700 B.C. and reconstructed in the 20th century.

The still unconfirmed reports of the destruction of the millennia-old gates emerged the last couple of days but were recently confirmed by Michael Danti, professor of archaeology at Boston University and co-director of theCultural Heritage Initiative (CHI) at theAmerican Schools of Oriental Research.

Speaking to National Geographic, Danti said “We can verify for now that the Mashki and Nergal Gates have been destroyed,” based on photographs which received by the CHI, which was later corroborated by ‘trusted sources’ from Mosul,  the ISIS-occupied city that surrounds Nineveh.

The Nergal Gate after it was destroyed by Islamic State. In this image, an earthmover is visible in the distance. COURTESY OF ASOR CULTURAL HERITAGE INITIATIVES

Looking back in history, over 400 years ago, Nineveh was one of the most important urban centers in the region. It was an ancient Assyrian city located in upper Mesopotamia on the eastern bank of the River Tigris. The ancient city was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and was the largest city on the planet for over fifty years. It is considered as one of the oldest and most impressive ancient cities ever to exist in antiquity. According to researchers, the region was inhabited around 6,000 BC to 3,000 BC becoming an extremely important religious center where the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar was worshiped for decades.

The ancient city featured impressive temples and among its most noteworthy is the 80-room palace of King Sennacherib surrounded by a wall of approximately 12 kilometers in length punctuated by 15 impressive gates.

The reign of King Sennacherib was remembered by his siege of Jerusalem which took place in 701¸BC and was recorded in both Assyrian records and the Bible which describes prophet Jonah’s visit to Nineveh.

A sign indicating the location of the destroyed Mashki Gate. COURTESY OF ASOR CULTURAL HERITAGE INITIATIVES

Turbulent periods are well recorded; the city was sacked in 612 BC by a Babylonian alliance.

The historic gates of Nineveh were reconstructed during the 20th century and remain as one of the most important pieces of ancient heritage to the surrounding population.

According to Danti, “Both the Arab Muslim and Arab Christian population [of the area] trace their ancestry back to the Assyrians, It’s part of their modern identity.”

Regrettably, as war reigns over the region, unconfirmed reports suggest that as the Iraqi army plans to liberate the city of Mosul from the control of ISIS the gates of Nineveh and other monuments are beings plowed under.

“It’s reasonable to assume that [ISIS] is destroying other gates [in Nineveh], but we need to get more information before we can make those assertions,” Danti adds in an interview with National Geographic.

“[ISIS] is essentially sending a signal to the government of Iraq that if they continue with their offensive on Mosul they can expect a scorched earth policy from Islamic State in both Mosul and the Iraq theater but also in Raqqa in the Syrian theatre,” added Danti.

Ever since the Islamic Militants seized control of the region, there have been reports of deliberate destruction of monuments. In July of 2014,  mosque dedicated to the prophet Jonah inside the walls of Nineveh was destroyed by the Islamic State.

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