Middle East

AP PHOTOS: Iraqi museum refuge for relics of the past

  • FILE - In this Monday, March 7, 2016 file photo, Iraqis visit the Assyrian Hall surrounded by ancient artifacts of at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by Islamic State group, the collections at the Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It’s now one of the places you can find relics from ancient cities that fell into the extremists’ hands. As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of IS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Culture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

    FILE - In this Monday, March 7, 2016 file photo, Iraqis visit the Assyrian Hall surrounded by ancient artifacts of at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by Islamic State group, the collections at the Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It’s now one of the places you can find relics from ancient cities that fell into the extremists’ hands. As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of IS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Culture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE- This file photo taken on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, shows a detail of a statue of Lamassu, the great winged bull from the Assyrian period displayed at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by Islamic State group, the collections at the Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It’s now one of the places you can find relics from ancient cities that fell into the extremists’ hands. As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of IS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Culture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

    FILE- This file photo taken on Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, shows a detail of a statue of Lamassu, the great winged bull from the Assyrian period displayed at the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad. After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by Islamic State group, the collections at the Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It’s now one of the places you can find relics from ancient cities that fell into the extremists’ hands. As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of IS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Culture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Sunday, March 13, 2016 photo, a detail of a figure at the Assyrian Hall of the Iraq National Museum Baghdad. Assyria was a civilization located near the modern-day city of Mosul, now held by the Islamic State group, who published videos online showing the destruction of key Assyrian sites Nimrud and Hatra along with many other religious and cultural sites.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Sunday, March 13, 2016 photo, a detail of a figure at the Assyrian Hall of the Iraq National Museum Baghdad. Assyria was a civilization located near the modern-day city of Mosul, now held by the Islamic State group, who published videos online showing the destruction of key Assyrian sites Nimrud and Hatra along with many other religious and cultural sites.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)  (The Associated Press)

After the destruction wreaked on archaeological sites by Islamic State group, the collections at the Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad have become even more important. It's now one of the only places you can find relics from the ancient cities that fell into the extremists' hands.

As many as 4,000 archaeological sites are still under the domination of IS and around 100 sites have been destroyed, according to Iraqi Cuture Minister Firyad Rwandzi. The sites in their grip show the multiple civilizations that rose and fell during Iraq's history, ranging from mosques, churches and small shrines to large sites of old cities.

Among the most significant ancient sites the militants captured were several capitals of the Assyrian Empire during its height between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C. — sites known as Nimrud and Khorsabad — as well as Hatra, a well-preserved Roman-era city of temples. Videos put out by the Islamic State group showed its militants blowing up or smashing relics and structures at the sites.

But some of the relics from those sites had been moved long ago to the National Museum. In its Assyrian Hall tower two great winged bulls with human heads, protective deities known as Lamassu, framing a statue from the temple of Nabu, the god of wisdom. Along the walls run bas-reliefs from the palace of King Sargon in Khorsabad.

Rwandzi said museums are more important than ever. "A nation without a museum is like a human without eyes," he said.

Here is a series of Associated Press photos by Maya Alleruzzo from the museum.

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