When Iraqi soldiers entered the Mosul Museum on March 13, they were greeted by scenes of enormous damage caused by the Islamic State (IS). Some items had been destroyed or burned, while others had been stolen by IS militants and sold to antiquities traders.
Iraqis and the rest of the world celebrated when the museum was freed from IS' grip, but their joy was bittersweet. UNESCO spokesperson Irina Bokova praised the liberation of the museum on March 9 and described the Feb. 26, 2015, attack on it as a “cultural tragedy.” The Mosul Museum, established in 1952 and considered the second most important museum after the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad, is now charred rubble. The sculptures of winged bulls symbolizing the Assyrian Empire that guarded its gates were both destroyed.