Historical objects provide insight into the past, but their existence is still in constant danger, especially those that are not kept in the museum. Antiquities have been particularly volatile in the Middle East in recent years due to political and religious conflicts and widespread looting. The recently discovered story of the reburial of the ancient Assyrian statue of Lamasu recalls these events.
The 2,700-year-old statue reflects the Assyrian Empire's control over the region, including modern-day Iraq, where it is located. It represents the mythological guardian deity Lamasu, who has the head of a man and the body of a bull or lion. Some llamas have a distinctive five-legged design, giving the appearance of being upright and on their side. Formerly, this pair of figures protected the monumental portal and the portal leading to the Assyrian house. Ancient Mesopotamian kings displayed their physical and divine power through their great efforts. However, many examples of these statues are now in the hands of Western museums.
The recently discovered Lamassu in Iraq was discovered in an ancient city called Dur-Sharuqin (near modern-day Khorsabad) in northern Iraq. It once guarded the palace of King Sargon II, whose reign began in 722 BC. Its 200-room palace reflects the king's reign, but when he died prematurely and his ruler moved the imperial city to Nineveh, the place fell into disuse. In the 19th century, Lammassoux was known to French archaeologists during the expedition but was excavated by the American army which swept through the region during the Gulf War. Then, in the early 2000s, the “war on terrorism” took place. Then came the arrival of ISIS and its attacks on local history that did not correspond to their beliefs. Although this lamassu has fortunately been largely preserved, it has not spared all the damage. The head was cut off by thieves in 1995, but fortunately it was recovered by authorities and placed in the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. The museum was looted during the 2003 war, but the head was not taken.
The Iraqi Antiquities Authority plans to reunite the head with the newly discovered body soon. Wartime is a time of frequent pillaging by invading and colonising forces as well as other opportunists. For example, after Napoleon's soldiers rediscovered the Rosetta Stone, it fell into the hands of the British during their conquest of France. It is now in the British Museum, but Egypt wants its treasure back. Theft and destruction often follow world events, but at least for this Llamasu he is always safe, as Iraqi scientists showed once again in 1992. Later, Lamassu was reburied for his own protection.