Archaeologists in Iraq have unearthed stunning rock carvings showing an Assyrian king paying tribute to his gods with a procession of mythical creatures.
The carvings, which are almost 3,000 years old, were publicly unearthed in the Faida district, north of Baghdad, after being hidden for several years to protect them from being damaged by the Islamic State militant group.
With the exception of carvings at the archaeological site of Khinnis, discovered near the city of Mosul in 1845, "there is no other Assyrian rock art complex that can be compared with Faida," archaeologist Daniele Morandi Bonacossi of the University of Udine told Live Science.
The Faida reliefs depict a procession of seven Assyrian deities shown in profile standing on dragons, horned lions, bulls or horses, the researchers note.
Researchers said the carvings were first seen in the 1970s and site surveys began in 2012 — but the excavation work had to be halted when ISIS took over a significant chunk of territory in the region in 2014.
The carvings were found in bedrock above what was once an ancient canal built by Assyrian king Sargon for local irrigation.
"It is highly probable that more reliefs and perhaps also monumental celebratory cuneiform inscriptions are still buried under the soil debris that filled the Faida canal," Morandi Bonacossi, who leads the excavations at Faida, told Live Science.