Iraq News

Ninawa recovers rare manuscript stolen by ISIS

By Khalid al-Taie


Iraq has retrieved ancient artefacts dating back to the 3rd millennium BC that were smuggled outside the country. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Culture]

Ninawa province authorities have recovered a rare manuscript that was stolen by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters during their control of Mosul, a local official told Diyaruna Thursday (December 12th).

The manuscript, found at a deserted ISIS site in Mosul, "was recognised by a citizen who immediately handed it over to the Ninawa Directorate of Antiquities", said directorate deputy director Kheiruddin Ahmed.

It is one of thousands of manuscripts, books and historical documents that were burned or stolen from the Ninawa Archaeology and Heritage library in Mosul by the militants, he said.

The manuscript's finding has "revived hopes that there are more rare manuscripts and books that might still be found inside the country", he said, as many have been destroyed or smuggled abroad.

Ahmed urged all citizens to co-operate with the Ninawa Directorate of Antiquities and with security forces in investigating and searching for any lost antiquities or manuscripts and to hand them over to the directorate.

The recently uncovered manuscript, "Guidance in Jurisprudence", is 240 years old, handwritten and provides a rich source of information on Islamic jurisprudence and history.

Retrieving smuggled artefacts

The province's cultural heritage was subjected to "the largest attack in its history" at the hands of ISIS, Ahmed said, as the group's elements targeted many archaeological sites and historical libraries.

"Countless antiquities and valuable artefacts were savagely destroyed or stolen," he said. "We are making great efforts to recover antiquities stolen from [Ninawa] and have succeeded in retrieving many of them."

The Ninawa Directorate of Antiquities does not have a comprehensive database on the antiquities recovered to-date because "some of them are delivered directly to the National Museum in Baghdad", he said.

Many Ninawa antiquities that were smuggled by the extremists outside the country have been returned to the General Authority for Antiquities and Heritage in Baghdad through a joint effort by the ministries of culture and foreign affairs, he added.

The most recent retrieval of smuggled antiquities happened at the end of November when a "set of clay and stone artefacts were returned to Iraq", said Ahmed.

The artefacts date back to the Assyrian period -- between 1,200 and 612 BC.

As for archaeological excavation efforts in Ninawa, Ahmed said the directorate's work in this regard is ongoing in collaboration with two foreign missions.

The excavation work is concentrated in the newly discovered Assyrian palace under the Nabi Yunus Mosque in Mosul, he noted.

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