2002 and 2004 World Monuments Watch
More than 2,700 years ago two Assyrian kings, Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.) and Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.), recorded their successful military campaigns on the walls of their neighboring palaces at the ancient sites of Nineveh and Nimrud. Marauding troops in foreign lands are depicted with careful topographical and ethnographic detail in the reliefs, rendered in a style marked by lively action. In the 1960s a corrugated metal roof was erected to protect the stone reliefs in Sennacherib’s palace, but it was later stolen. Beginning in the 1990s and continuing during the war in the 2000s, Nineveh and Nimrud were two of many archaeological sites in Iraq that attracted significant international concern due to widespread looting. For this reason the sites were included on the World Monuments Watch in 2002 and 2004.
A site in conflict
In collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute, UNESCO, the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, we supported the creation of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative to address the damages and threats to ancient monuments in Iraq that came about as a result of the 2003 war. Nineveh and Nimrud Palaces received an award from the initiative for protective efforts carried out at the sites. These included the reinstallation of the protective cover over Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh and the stationing of guards at both palaces, which had protected the ruins from vandals and allowed them to function as site museums. In 2002 and early 2003, the Italian government allocated funding to team of conservators who carried out four campaigns at Nineveh. They focused their work on the reliefs by documenting them with photography, studying their condition, and taking samples of the stone for analysis.
Sadly, in April 2015 news reports indicated that the palace at Nimrud had been destroyed. Between April and May 2016 the new protective cover at Nineveh had been looted, and within the same time frame many brick walls and metal pillars within the site had been dismantled. In light of the negative events occurring at Nineveh and Nimrud, the documentation and knowledge gained about the sites in earlier conservation campaigns becomes ever more important.