When it's not looting archaeological sites, ISIS is destroying them—and often doing both. The terror group has obliterated numerous ancient treasures, including the Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra (in Syria) and the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud (Iraq). In 2014, after invading territories in northern Iraq, the group demolished Mosul’s Nabi Yunus shrine, where the biblical prophet Jonah (or Yunus, as he’s known in the Koran) was thought to be buried.
Now, archaeologists have made a surprising discovery beneath the shrine's wreckage. As The Telegraph reports, a pristine ancient palace located beneath it has been made accessible through tunnels dug by ISIS. Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih uncovered a marble slab from the passageways inscribed with cuneiform referring to King Esarhaddon of the Assyrian Empire. That would make the artifact nearly 2700 years old.
At its peak from the seventh to ninth centuries BCE, the empire ruled the region from what is now Egypt through southern Turkey. Construction on the palace began during the reign of Sennacherib (681–669 BCE). The area around the structure was partly excavated in 1852 and again in the 1950s, but until now the palace had remained undiscovered. In addition to the cuneiform tablet, archaeologists found a stone sculpture of a demi-goddess. ISIS built the tunnels to pillage the site, and they likely looted hundred of items like pottery and small artifacts before they were forced to flee the area by Iraqi troops.
A tweet describes in Turkish the discovery of the palace.
With support from international organizations like the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, local archaeologists are now racing to excavate and document the palace before the unreliable tunnels collapse and bury it one again.
[h/t The Telegraph]