Pushkin Museum starts #savetheshedu social media campaign
August 3, 2015
Earlier this year, the terrorist group Islamic State destroyed many important world heritage sites in Iraq.
They claimed that the sites promoted apostasy and that the monuments were false idols. The ancient city of Nimrud, which was founded in 13th century B.C., was destroyed and its ruins bulldozed. One of Iraq’s largest museums, the Mosul Museum, was raided and many of its artefacts smashed with sledgehammers. The museum was the home of hundreds of historically important items discovered during a 1970s Soviet-Iraqi archaeological dig in Mesopotamia.
Rauf Munchayev, the head of the Archaeology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the leader of digs in Iraq from 1969 to 1980 and then from 1984 to 1985, stated that during that particular expedition, the archaeologists discovered a monument from 7000 B.C. that predated any artefact found before. The dig opened a window onto a previously unknown period of history from 8000 to 4000 B.C. They also found many other artefacts, including a clay oven dating from the 5th century B.C. Five of the items discovered during this expedition are displayed in the Hermitage State Museum.
Munchayev compared the destruction of the Assyrian artefacts to the loss of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas, two giant holy statues which stood 55 meters and 37 meters tall. They were built in the 6th century, a time when Bamiyan was a holy Buddhist site, but were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 as they regarded them as false idols. Munchayev stated: “This wasn’t a long time ago, but we seem to be forgetting already. We need to remember these important artefacts so they are not completely lost to us.”
As a response to the destruction, Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has now started a new social media campaign in tribute to the lost artefacts.
They are inviting the people of Moscow to take a picture of the museum’s shedu – enormous five-legged creatures which have human heads and bull’s bodies, combined with the wings of an eagle. Visitors are then invited to share their pictures on social media using the hashtag #savetheshedu.
The towering shedu are a deity which once stood guard at ancient Mesopotamian city gates and at the entrances of palaces, providing protection and keeping watch. They were a part of Akkadian and Sumerian mythology and an embodiment of human individuality. Shedu were among the monuments destroyed in the Islamic State attacks in February and March.
Moscow - Pushkin Museum (Moscow, Russia)
Moscow - #savetheshedu (Moscow, Russia)
The Pushkin Museum is the home of plaster casts of shedu from Khorsabad, and several reliefs taken from the palace of Nimrud. The originals are currently housed at the Louvre and the British Museum. The Pushkin Museum is also home to 476 original works of art dating from the late 5th century B.C., which were found by archaeologists working in northern Iraq.
Anastasia Yainovskaya, of the Department of the Ancient East at the Pushkin Museum, said that the recent destruction is a huge loss not just for the people of Iraq, but for the entire human race. “If we do not respect our common history, then we have no hope,” she stated.
The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, stated that we cannot remain silent about these destructive acts. “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime.” She urged those in the region and throughout the world to do everything possible to protect their heritage and the heritage of humanity.
When asked why we are still so fascinated by the history of Mesopotamia, Rauf Munchayev said it was because this territory was the location of the earliest forms of human civilization, including the first cities, written language, government, and state education. This means that the destruction of Mesopotamian heritage amounts to an assault on society and mankind itself.