The Mashki Gate is one of the monumental gate of Niniveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire that lasted seven hundred years from the 14th century BC to the 7th century BC. This massive cultural site, resulting from one of the first human civilisations, has gone through thousands of years and in 2016 it was still standing not far away from Mosul, in northern Iraq. This was until, that same year, ISIS destroyed multiple sections of the Mashki Gate with a bulldozer claiming a cultural attack against pre-Islamic sites.
Eventually, the action triggered an important international mobilisation that resulted into several actions for the reconstruction of the gate that brought numerous teams of archaeologists in the area. Recently, on of the teams composed by US and Iraqi researchers, has unveiled an exciting discovery.
Eight 2,700 years-old Assyrian carved slabs have been brought to light in impressive good conditions. The bas-reliefs illustrate detailed natural elements such as palm trees and grape vines, together with heroic warriors’ scenes. According to researchers’ estimations, the carvings date back to the reign of King Sennacherib, namely 705–681 B.C. The artefacts are likely to be part of the King’s Palace from which they had been successively transported to the Mashki Gate. At that time, the relics were in part buried which conserved them in perfect conditions up to present day.
The attack on the Mashki Gate was one of the cultural sites destroyed by ISIS between 2014 and 2017 in a campaign targeting pre-Islamic monuments and artefacts. Today, the country hosts thousands of excavations unearthing vestiges of some of the first human societies on earth.
Despite their uniqueness , the eight slabs are just one (glorious) part of what has been recently discovered in the site of ancient Niniveh. The Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project is a project of University of Udine, Italy, which brought to light 13 bas-reliefs from the walls of an Assyrian waterway. ALIPH Foundation is one of the major actors in the reconstruction of the Mashki Gate and, once the reconstruction will be completed, it aims to convert the site into an education centre.
Enking Molly, Archaeologists Unearth 2,700-Year-Old Stone Carvings in Northern Iraq, 24/10/2022, The Smithsonian Magazine
Wertheimer Tiffany, Mashki Gate: Stunning ancient rock carvings found in Iraq, 21/10/2022, The BBC
Edwards Christian, Archaeologists restoring ISIS damage in Iraq discover Assyrian reliefs unseen for millennia , 21/10/2022, CNN