An archaeological park with 2,700-year-old Assyrian carvings was revealed at a ceremony in northern Iraq on Sunday. The 13 rock-carved bas-reliefs were cut into the walls of an irrigation canal spanning six miles.
Measuring 16 feet wide and 6-and-a-half feet tall, the carvings date from the reigns of Sargon II (721 BCE–705 BCE) and his son Sennacherib (705 BCE–681 BCE). They include depictions of kings praying to the gods. Archaeologists from Kurdistan and Italy’s University of Udine oversaw the dig since its launch in 2019.
While there have been other rock reliefs in the country, Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the university, remarked last year that none of them were as “huge and monumental.”
Iraq contains some of the oldest ancient cities in the world and was home to a number of early civilizations, including the Assyrians, the Sumerians, and the Babylonians.
Thieves and war, however, have decimated archaeological remains. The Islamic State group also demolished dozens of pre-Islamic treasures and used smuggling to finance their operations from 2014–17.
Earlier this year, a British tourist’s 15-year jail sentence was overturned after he smuggled artifacts out of Iraq.