2,700-year-old rock carvings discovered in Mosul, Iraq

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BAGHDAD — Archaeologists in northern Iraq uncovered 2,700-year-old rock carvings last week depicting scenes of warfare and trees from the Assyrian Empire, an archaeologist said Wednesday.

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The carvings on marble slabs were discovered by a team of experts in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, who have been working to restore the site of the ancient Mashki Gate, which was razed by militants of the Islamic State group in 2016.

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Fadhil Mohammed, responsible for the restoration work, said the team was surprised to discover « eight murals with inscriptions, decorative designs and writings ».

The Mashki Gate was one of the largest gates in Nineveh, an ancient Assyrian city in this part of the historical region of Mesopotamia.

Iraqi workers excavate a newly discovered rock carving relief at the Mashki Gate, one of the monumental gates to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, on the outskirts of what is now the northern city of Mosul from Iraq, October 19, 2022. (Photo by ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images)

The engravings discovered show, among other things, a fighter preparing to shoot an arrow while others show palm trees.

“The writings show that these murals were built or made during the reign of King Sennacherib,” Mohammed added, referring to the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who reigned from 705 to 681 BC.

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The Islamic State group invaded large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and waged a campaign of systematic destruction of priceless archaeological sites in both countries. Extremists have vandalized museums and destroyed major archaeological sites in their drive to erase history.

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Iraqi forces backed by a US-led international coalition liberated Mosul from IS in 2017 and the extremists lost the last strip of land they once controlled two years later.

The territory of today’s Iraq was home to some of the world’s first cities. Thousands of archaeological sites are scattered across the country, where Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians once lived.


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