Barbarians at the (Nineveh) gate
February 26 2015
Update - a reader writes:
I started to cry, I couldn't finish watching it. I asked myself why and have no answers, just sadness.
I hope the desecrators are punished.
Another reader makes this wider point:
I'll never forget my first visit to the British Museum...it was hard to pull myself away from the Assyrian reliefs.
I've just finished a course on the Early Middle Ages (Yale Open University) and remember Professor Freeman talking about how the Catholic Church was instrumental in preserving and communicating the knowledge of the Roman world. And so it was with Britain et. al., saving knowledge of these pre-Islamic cultures. All is forgiven.
While another reader sends in this photo of Sir Austen Henry Layard, who first excavated Nineveh in the late 19th Century, and says:
Should have taken all of them.
The Director of the Met Museum, Thomas Campbell, also put out this statement yesterday:
Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.
Update II - another reader writes:
Please remind any pacifist art historian friends what happens when ISIS reaches Cairo and Istanbul and then Athens.
Update III - another reader writes:
What I found interesting was the museum director saying we watched the video closely and there are things missing from the museum floor. Apparently ISIS knows how to make a buck or two.
Update IV - another reader adds a longer perspective:
Dreadful, stupid….. Although does it not remind us of the barbarities committed upon artworks by of some of our own fundamentalist puritan ancestors (historical ancestors, whether or not genetically ours)? That is no excuse, of course, especially today. “[T]he worst / are full of passionate intensity….”; and the rest of Yeats’ poem is no less apposite — I just hope his pessimism is unjustified.
Always, beware religious extremists with hammers.