National Geographic Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert puts into perspective Islamic State’s recent, widely publicized destruction of artifacts and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria. (National Geographic News)
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.
- Islamic State, also called ISIS, has been targeting archaeological sites throughout Iraq and Syria. What is ISIS? This blog post might give you some help.
- Why is ISIS destroying ancient treasures and archaeological sites? This Nat Geo News article might give you some help.
- Many ISIS members are intent on destroying depictions of pre-Islamic religion or spirituality.
- Critically, not all treasures or sites targeted by ISIS are being destroyed. A huge number of artifacts are being looted, or stolen, to finance ISIS’ political goals. These items are being sold on the lucrative international black market.
- Watch the video above. Nat Geo Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert says that some of the artifacts destroyed or looted by ISIS are “Biblical in age.” (:20) What does this mean?
- Both Hiebert and the Nat Geo News article say that this is far from the first time that conflict has damaged artifacts in the Middle East. What are some other examples?
- Hiebert talks about the Taliban’s destruction of giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2001. Take a look at this devastating before-and-after photo of the larger of the two Buddhas.
- The Nat Geo article mentions Imam Ali Air Base, which the United States constructed in 2003 in the vicinity of Ur, an ancient Babylonian city and the traditional birthplace of the Biblical patriarch Abraham.
- The pillaging of ancient sites in the Mideast goes back much farther than that, of course. Take a look at this relief, part of the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy. It displays the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE, when treasures were looted (like the menorah in the relief) or destroyed (like the Second Temple).
- Why does Hiebert think we in the West should be concerned about the sacking of Iraq and Syria?
- The sites and artifacts are “unrenewable cultural resources,” Hiebert says, part of the history of humanity itself. This is, after all, the so-called “Cradle of Civilization,” where some of the earliest examples of written language, agriculture, and urban life developed.
- These sites “belong to all of us; it’s all part of human history. When we see the destruction of something that’s as far away as Iraq, it’s part of our heritage, our concern. We should care about those artifacts, and that history, because it’s our history, too.”
- Despite the appalling video and destruction of archaeological treasures, Hiebert, like all good educators, remains defiantly hard-working and even optimistic. What does he think will happen to the destroyed objects in Iraq and Syria? Take a look at :55 in the video.
- Hiebert is insistent that ISIS’ attempt to erase elements of our shared humanity will ultimately fail. “That’s impossible to do,” he says. “Human history is there, it’s permanent. It’s part of all our heritage . . . At the end of the day, we [archaeologists and global citizens] will put the pieces back together.”
Nat Geo: Archaeologist: Dr. Fredrik Hiebert
Nat Geo: What is ISIS?