Today I crossed a world heritage site off of my bucket list…but not because I went there. I crossed it off because it has been destroyed. It is no longer the incredible 2000 year old site in Iraq which has been long known for the well preserved artefacts and integrity of the structure.
It is now a pile of rubble… Stones and pillars smashed in the dirt… Something noone will ever be able to marvel at again.
In an ever growing list of archaeological sites I want to visit around the world, Hatra was one of them. Hatra was built by the Seleucid Empire. It had survived 2000 years in near perfect condition, including invasions by the Romans in 116 and 198 CE, thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The remains were a perfect example of the Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features. Saddam Husein even sought to preserve this ancient city, among others relevant to Mesopotamian history.
In the UNESCO selection criteria, Hatra was deemed
- to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
- to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
- to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
- to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
- to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
- to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
- to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
- to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
- to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
- to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for insitu conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
I wanted to see this impressive piece of ancient architecture for myself…
Although there have been no images released to verify the demolition of Hatra, the news that this world heritage site was demolished has been taken seriously as this site would not be the first to be destroyed. In the past few weeks many invaluable cultural items at the Mosul Museum were brutally destroyed, and the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud was also demolished. Director General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova, and Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) released a joint statement following the news of the demolition of Hatra.
“The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing underway in Iraq..”
“This is a direct attack against the history of Islamic arab cities , and it confirms the role of destruction of heritage in the propaganda of extremists groups.”
“UNESCO and ISESCO are fully mobilized to respond to this emergency and stand ready to assist the Iraqi authorities in any possible way..”
I can only hope that this was a hoax…because I cannot bare the destruction of heritage.
Hatra. 2015. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [ONLINE] Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/277/. [Accessed 7 March 2015].
Hatra – The Criteria for Selection. 2015. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [ONLINE] Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/. [Accessed 7 March 2015].