The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the deliberate destruction of archaeological sites and museum collections, as well as the systematic looting and sale of artifacts in northern Iraq by the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Lebanon” (ISIS/ISIL). This destruction, occurring at an unprecedented scale, represents an irreparable loss of cultural heritage - not only for Iraq but for all humanity.
Since taking over Mosul province in June 2014, ISIS/ISIL has systematically destroyed monuments of cultural and religious significance, including mosques, shrines, churches, and temples. More recently, their focus turned towards indiscriminately attacking archaeological sites and museums. In late February, members of ISIS/ISIL engaged in the large-scale destruction of artifacts in Mosul Museum, Iraq’s second largest museum. These artifacts include reliefs and statuary from the Assyrian capitals of Nimrud and Nineveh (900 – 612 BC), and a large number of statues of kings and gods from Hatra dating to the Parthian period (300 BC – 100 AD). In early March, the attention of ISIS/ISIL turned to archaeological sites themselves, including those of Nineveh, Nimrud, Hatra and Khorsabad, Assyria’s capital during the reign of Sargon II (721-705 BC).
The destruction of some of the world’s most important archaeological treasures is a vile attack on the cultural heritage of all people. The Royal Ontario Museum is ready and committed to share its resources to help assess and limit the damage to archaeological sites and monuments, and to stop the sale of looted artifacts from Iraq. We call upon everybody to voice their concerns regarding the ongoing cultural devastation by ISIS/ISIL to political leaders and, further, to report to the authorities any suspicious appearances of cultural artifacts from Iraq on the antiquities market.