Garden Buddha

The Death of Ancient Art: ISIS Strikes Again

Historical art dignifies our past. It provides a bridge between the wonders of a bygone era and the technological future. Like most people with archaeological training, I look upon carvings and statues from the ancient world with wonder and amazement. The detail and dedication that went into the their creation is always inspiring and visiting a

Garden Buddha
Garden Buddha

museum is paramount to everyone’s education into the arts.

When the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan I was aghast that such wanton violence on another cultures artwork and belief system could still exist today.  It appeared that civilization was always doomed to repeat the stupidities and mistakes of the past.   It was a sad day when they destroyed that significant work of art because of over zealous self-righteousness.

Little did I know that the extremists in ISIS, or ISIL would figure out a way to top it.  These extremists somehow decided the ancient Assyrian art found in Mosul’s Art Museum was offensive to Allah and destroyed them on Feb. 26, 2015.   I say somehow decided because even though according to the NY Times they state on their video why they did it. The answer is not one of some quaint religious or misguided ignorance, but rather that ravager of all nice things, greed. They want money, and if they can’t get money, they want followers and attention that will get them money.

I find it amazingly convenient that the artifacts they destroyed in the museum all appear to be large pieces that could not be openly sold on the black market to fund their particularly self-righteous behavior. According to the National Post and AP they’ve had no qualms about selling other proclaimed immoral artifacts in the past. Nor, do I really feel they will have problems engaging in the black market in the future.

It is strange that I almost wish that they had been able to sell those priceless artifacts on the black market.  At least these treasures would be saved for possible reassignment to the museum after ISIS becomes a bitter historical footnote of civilization.

It’s just sad to think that a statue of a winged bull survived for 2,800 years of war and destruction in one of the most historically violent areas of the world. It survived the, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Mongolians, several Caliphates, Sultans, and Emirates, even the Turks and the Mamluks. It passed into the 20th century as a kingdom and British occupied territory. This statue survived a republic and the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein, and American occupation only to be destroyed by some illiterate thug with a power drill. Really?

 Not a good day for art.

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