In March this year reports swept through the global media that ISIS had used bulldozers to level the ancient city of Hatra. ISIS has already destroyed a number of irreplaceable sculptures from Hatra in the Mosul Museum, lending immediate credibility to reports from Iraqi antiquities officials that ISIS fighters had destroyed Hatra itself as well.
However, no videos or other confirmation surfaced for a month afterwards and there was no way to assess the extent of the damage. The story gradually faded from the media. Given the massive size of Hatra, and its location in the middle of the desert, in a region of no strategic significance, over fifty kilometers from inhabited areas, some grew skeptical that ISIS had mounted a major operation to demolish Hatra.
On Saturday video surfaced on YouTube and other websites which showed ISIS fighters destroying sculptures at Hatra. The voice-overs from several ISIS fighters contained the standard spiel about shirk, idolatry, and Muhammad destroying the idols of the Kaaba. The video was quickly removed, but I took some screenshots that will suffice illustrate the items which have been destroyed while leaving out the majority propaganda elements.
The good news is that the damage to Hatra is not as extensive was was first feared. The bad news is that more irreplaceable and unique Hatrene art has been damaged, threatening to further erase an already under-studied field.
At the beginning of the video there is an aerial shot of the ruins of Hatra which seems to have been shot from a blimp or drone. A graphic then highlights the Great Iwans and the Temple of the Triad with a label which reads “idols and statues.”
All of the artifacts shown being destroyed in the video are from the Great Iwans. None are seen from the Temple of the Triad.
Plan of the Great Iwan at Hatra. City of the Sun God, p. 332-333.
This post is the start of a series of image posts Ancient History et cetera will be putting together each month and today’s post is all about amazing ancient Roman mosaics!
The Romans, well the wealthier ones, were well known for enjoying mosaic decorations in their homes and public buildings. As Roman culture spread far and wide the use of mosaics as decoration can also been seen across North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.
A Roman floor mosaic dating to the 4th century CE and depicting Dionysos fighting Indians. Dionysos was a very popular subject in Roman mosaics. Provenance: Villa Ruffinella, Rome. (Palazzo Massimo, Rome). Photographer: Mark Cartwright
Shrouded in mystery and lure, the Khmer city of Angkor is one of the most mesmerizing places in the world. Founded around the year 800 CE by Jayavarman II (c. 770-850 CE), Angkor was the center of the powerful Khmer kingdom, which dominated much of what is present-day Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam until the 15th century CE. At its height, Angkor was one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated cities in the world, crowned by a stunning architectural achievement: the temple complex of Angkor Wat.
In this feature interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. John Burgess — the author of A Woman of Angkor and former Washington Post foreign correspondent — about his new novel, the intricacies of ancient Khmer court culture, and why he has spent his life exploring the ruins of Khmer civilization.
Few places on earth have captivated humanity as much as the ethereal city of Petra, which is located in present-day Jordan. Constructed by the Nabataeans–ancient traders who dominated the export of frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and spices from Arabia to the Greco-Roman world–Petra was a beautiful desert metropolis of theaters, temples, palaces, and immense markets. ‘Rediscovered’ in 1812 by an eccentric Swiss adventurer, Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra is the focus of a new show at the Antikenmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Opened last fall by HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Petra: Wonder in the Desert. In the Footsteps of J. L. Burckhardt alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” showcases nearly 150 artifacts, demonstrating the power, prestige, and sophistication of one of Antiquity’s most alluring cities.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia converses with Mr. Laurent Gorgerat, a Co-Curator of the exhibition, and learns how a mysterious kingdom of former nomads created a luxurious, urban oasis in an inhospitable climate.
Shadowed in mystery and the object of fascination for centuries, the ancient Arab palace of Quseir ‘Amra is truly a gem of Late Antiquity. A royal palace, fortress, and retreat, Quiser ‘Amra is an artistic and cultural “microcosm” of the the Middle East during an era of unprecedented transition.
In this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Professor Fatema AlSulaiti discusses the design and art of Quseir ‘Amra (located in modern-day Jordan), the confluence of Byzantine, Persian, and Arab cultures in the Levant at the end of Late Antiquity, and how modern design can be informed by ancient principles.