Three thousand years ago, the city of Nineveh in Iraq had a population of 100,000 and was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. It was home to magnificent palaces and temples and is mentioned in the Old Testament.
Now it’s crumbling away, reports Popular Archaeology magazine. Located near the city of Mosul on the Tigris River, it was hit hard by looting during the war, and is still inadequately protected and maintained. Mosul’s suburbs are expanding close to the site, weathering is taking its toll, and illegal digging for artifacts continues. Many of these stolen treasures end up on the international antiquities market. The Global Heritage Fund lists Nineveh as one of the world’s most threatened ancient sites.
Of course, Coalition forces and the Iraqi government have a lot more pressing problems than archaeological preservation, but they ignore it at their peril. Preserving Iraq’s past will help secure Iraq’s future. Once the country becomes stable (whenever that happens) places like Nineveh will be a huge tourist draw. In fact, at least one company already offers tours to Iraq that focus on the country’s rich ancient history.
Despite these pioneering tours, it will be a many years before Iraq will be a mainstream tour destination. In the meantime, you can see many fine bas-reliefs from the palaces of Nineveh at the British Museum in London.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Note that it was taken in 1990, before suffering two decades of war.]