Gorgeous ancient rock carvings found in Iraq

An Iraqi worker excavates a rock relief found at the Mashki Gate, from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the outskirts of Mosul, on October 19 22

Archaeologists in northern Iraq have made an exciting discovery: unearthing beautiful rock carvings that are approximately 2,700 years old.

They were found in Mosul by a US-Iraqi excavation team working to rebuild the ancient Mashki Gate, which Islamic State (IS) militants destroyed in 2016.

Iraq is home to some of the oldest cities in the world, including Babylon.

But years of turmoil have seen many archaeological sites looted and damaged by militants and military action.

The eight marble reliefs show finely chiseled war scenes, vines and palm trees.

They date back to the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who ruled the ancient city of Nineveh from 705 to 681 BC, the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage said, in a statement seen by the AFP.

The mighty king was known for his military campaigns, including against Babylon, and for his vast expansion of Nineveh.

The relics are believed to have once adorned his palace and were later moved to the Mashki Gate, Mohammed Khodr, head of the Iraqi archaeological team, told AFP Fadel.

The Mashki Gate was one of the largest in Nineveh and was an icon of the size and power of the city. The gate was rebuilt in the 1970s, but was bulldozed by IS militants in 2016.

The militant group looted and demolished several ancient pre-Islamic sites in Iraq, denouncing them as symbols of “idolatry”.

Mr. Khodr said that when the marble slabs were placed at the gate, they were partially buried. The underground sections have been preserved and bear the engravings visible today; everything that was on the surface has been obliterated over the centuries.

The excavation team, which includes experts from the University of Mosul in Iraq and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, are working to restore the Mashki Gate site to how it was before IS demolished it.

An Iraqi worker excavates a rock relief found at the Mashki Gate, from the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, on the outskirts of modern-day Mosul, October 19, 22

This sculpture shows an Assyrian soldier shooting back an arrow, ready to shoot

More than 10,000 archaeological sites have been found in Iraq.

Nearby Syria is also home to valuable ruins, including the site of the ancient city of Palmyra, where the great Temple of Bel was destroyed by IS. in 2015.

However, it is not only militants, vandals and smugglers who have damaged archaeological sites in Iraq.

US troops and their allies damaged the ruins of Babylon when the fragile site was used as a military camp after the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

A 2009 report from UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, found that troops and their contractors “caused severe damage to the city by digging, cutting, scraping and leveling.”

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