Nimrud – the cradle of civilization
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Iraq has been
viewed as a largely tumultuous country. Foreign invasions, disputes over the
control of natural resources, war, and lately, internal crises born of religious
differences occupy the headlines when it comes to Iraq. What often escapes
notice is that modern Iraq is roughly what was known as Mesopotamia – the
world’s oldest civilization. It is here that mankind first began to read,
write, create laws, and live in cities under an organized government.
Nestled in the fertile basin between the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, the region has been home to continuous successive
civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. At different periods in its
history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian,
and Babylonian empires. One of the most famous historical sites in
Iraq is Nimrud.
Built on the site of an ancient Assyrian city, historians
named it Nimrud to identify the city with the Biblical character Nimrud – a
hunting hero. In the Bible, Nimrud is identified as the city of Calah. The city
is believed to be built about 1250 BC, or just about 150 years after Moses
The city gained fame when king Ashurnasirpal
II of the Neo Assyrian Empire (883 BC–859 BC) made it his
capital at the expense of Assur. He built a large palace and temples in the
city that had fallen into a degree of disrepair during the Dark Ages of the
mid-11th to mid-10th centuries BC. King Ashurnasirpal
II, who reigned from 883 to 859 BC, built a new capital at
Nimrud. King Ashurnasirpal's son Shalmaneser III built a palace that far
surpassed his father's during the Middle Assyrian Empire.
Around 6th century BC, the Assyrians fell into
bitter civil wars which allowed the Babylonians to re-emerge as the pre-eminent
power in the Middle East. The fall of Nimrud roughly coincides with the exile
of the Israelites to Babylon.
Still, the Assyrians persevered, as they had against fire,
famine earthquakes and floods for centuries. Modern day Nimrud is still populated
by people who identify as Assyrians. They still speak Aramaic, and most
practice Christianity rather than Islam. That might explain the hostility of
ISIS, but, as UNESCO says, Nimrud is part of the common heritage of all
About 90 percent of the city is still underground and
has not been excavated. Much of the art — the statuary and reliefs, gold,
ivory and jewels — has been removed to museums over the last two
centuries. But the aboveground structures, many of which still hold these
priceless reliefs, are very vulnerable — and hopefully still in existence.
Today Iraq is under siege from the terrorist organisation
known as the Islamic State of and the Levant. It is not alone in this
situation. Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria all face the
presence of ISIS – in the form of allegiance from home groups, and in more
serious cases actual violence from ISIS followers. Thousands of Iraqi nationals
have been killed and millions displaced; rioting, war crimes, torture, sexual
violence and slavery on a massive scale – all of these are part of ISIS’ modus
operandi in Iraq and other affected countries.
In pursuing their motives, ISIS has also embarked on a
‘cultural cleanse’ effectively destroying the some of the world’s most precious
heritage sites. If rapid action is not taken, the world may well lose cultural,
religious and historic value beyond measure.
02 Apr 2015Nandini