Ancient Rock Carvings Found in Iraq During Restauration of Mashki Gate

Ancient Rock Carvings Found by Archaeologists While They Worked on Restoring the Damaged Mashki Gate in Mosul.

Oct 21, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Ancient rock carvings found in Iraq
An Iraqi worker excavates a rock carving on Wednesday. Zaid Al-Obeidi / AFP – Getty Images


Ancient rock carvings found date from some 2,700 years ago. Finally, they are found in Mosul by a US-Iraqi excavation team. The team is trying to reconstruct the ancient Mashki Gate. Islamic State (IS) militants destroyed the gate in 2016.


Ancient rock carvings in Iraq and their history

Ancient rock carvings details
Detail of rock carvings at the Mashki Gate site in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage


Some of the oldest cities in the world may be found in Iraq. But Iraq is a place with a lot of turmoil. As a result, many military actions damaged many archaeological sites.


Ancient rock carvings date back to the times of King Sennacherib, according to Iraqi officials. The king ruled from 705 BCE to 681 BCE. “The carvings may be removed from the king’s palace. Besides, they used them in the construction of the gate by his grandson”, says archaeologists Fadel Mohammed Khodr.


Altogether, the general belief is that ancient rock carvings once adorned his palace, but later, they moved them to the Mashki Gate. The carvings were not always visible, due to their use in making of the gate. “Only the part buried underground has retained its carvings”, Khodr says.


detailed carvings
The detailed carvings show a soldier drawing back a bow in preparation to fire an arrow [ Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP]

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Sennacherib controlled an establishment of the Nineveh, as the Assyrian royal capital. Nineveh also represented the largest city. The city sits on a major crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Iranian plateau. The powerful king’s name is famous for his military campaigns, besides his vast expansion of Nineveh.


The International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, a Swiss NGO, is collaborating with Iraqi officials to reconstruct and restore the gate. They say “The project is meant to transform the monument into an educational center, on the history of Nineveh”.


The militant group demolished ancient Iraq’s cities

Iraq, ancient rock carvings found
An Iraqi worker excavates a rock-carving relief recently found at the Mashki Gate, one of the monumental gates to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh [Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP]

Iraq is the birthplace of some of the world’s earliest cities. This includes Sumerians and Babylonians, and also where some of humanity’s first examples of writing were found.


The militant group ransacked and demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, denouncing them as symbols of “idolatry”. There are more than 10,000 archaeological sites in Iraq.


Streets in Iraq
Streets in Iraq


Neighbouring Syria is also home to treasured ruins. That includes the site of the ancient city of Palmyra, where the grand 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 an army camp after the US invaded Iraq in 2003. A 2009 report by Unesco, the United Nations cultural agency, troops and their contractors “caused major damage to the city by digging, cutting, scraping, and levelling”.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.