The importance of the sculptural complex of relief orthostats that originally decorated the palace’s halls is well known. After the excavations that were performed in the 19th and 20th centuries, the structures of the palace on the acropolis of Quyunjik that to this day dominates the area of the ancient Nineveh, on the outskirts of the modern Mosul, have however remained exposed to the elements and, in the years that followed the first Gulf War, were the object of systematic looting that seriously damaged what remained on the site. Even the sheet metal roof covering the main areas of the royal suite has lost its effectiveness more than a decade ago.
A survey performed by J. Russell in the late 1990s also highlighted the dramatic situation of the structures, specifically of the relief plates decorating the walls of the rooms around the throne room; the archaeologist even identified a series of fragments of reliefs originating from this very sector, whose removal caused irreparable damage to entire orthostats, on the antiques market.
The scenario that emerges from a comparison of the situation observed
by Russell and the one observed in 2002 is, unfortunately, alarming:
of the 500 orthostats that were examined, only 16 did not display visible
damage or mutilations and, of these, only 30% of the sculpted surface
still had visible reliefs. No less than 27 orthostats had lost over
60% of their original format, and three reliefs, in addition to the
five recorded by Russell’s study, were completely missing. Thus, major losses occurred between 1998 and 2002; the situation may prove to be even more dramatic when the country’s political situation will allow, we hope as soon as possible, a new census to be performed.