In the 9th century BC, the city then known as Kalhu was the capital of Assyria, and its temples and palaces, including colossal lamassu sculptures of human-headed, winged lions, have made it one of the most important ancient sites in Iraq.
But in early 2015 Islamic State used explosives and power tools to destroy the city’s once-great North-West Palace. This week reports confirmed that the Nimrud ziggurat—a stepped, pyramidal tower that is among the tallest surviving monuments from the ancient world—had been bulldozed into the Tigris riverbed.
Nearby, contemporary sites remain at risk: the Assyrian city of Nineveh remains in IS territory, and defensive earthworks dug by frontline Kurdish fighters may have compounded IS damage to Dur-Sharrukin, another one-time Assyrian capital. The Nimrud site will need to be cleared of explosives before archaeologists can assess what remains among the lone and level sands.