3,000 years ago, it ruled the Mideast, now blown to pieces






NIMRUD, Iraq >> The chilly December wind whipped rain across the strewn wreckage of a city that, nearly 3,000 years ago, ruled almost the entire Middle East. Rivulets of water ran through the dirt, washing away chunks of ancient stone.

The city of Nimrud in northern Iraq is in pieces, victim of the Islamic State group’s fervor to erase history. The remains of Its palaces and temples, once lined in brilliant reliefs of gods and kings, have been blown up. The statues of winged bulls that once guarded the site are hacked to bits. Its towering ziggurat, or step pyramid, has been bulldozed.

The militants’ fanaticism devastated one of the Middle East’s most important archaeological sites. But more than a month after the militants were driven out, Nimrud is still being ravaged, its treasures disappearing, imperiling any chance of eventually rebuilding it, an Associated Press team found after multiple visits in the past month.

With the government and military still absorbed in fighting the war against the Islamic State group in nearby Mosul, the wreckage of the Assyrian Empire’s ancient capital lies unprotected and vulnerable to looters.

“When I heard about Nimrud, my heart wept before my eyes did,” said Hiba Hazim Hamad, an archaeology professor in Mosul who often took her students there.

In three of the AP’s four visits, its team wandered the ruins alone freely for up to an hour before anyone arrived. No one is assigned to guard the site, much less…

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