Americans and Iraqis work to urgently preserve the ancient Assyrian capital





The ancient Assyrian City of Ashur faces imminent threats. Recent construction of a dam on the Tigris River is causing large sections of the City to be swept away, while other precious artifacts are being looted from one of three World Heritage sites in Iraq. The United States Embassy, with the assistance of the American military, and officials from Iraq's Board of Antiquities organized the first international assessment of the site since 2003. The Embassy's most senior diplomat in the region said time is of the essence.

"We saw how the City is literally being washed away," remarked David Stewart, the Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader in Salah ad Din."We hope that by conducting this assessment, we canhelp to bring needed attention and funds to preserve one of the most important historical sites in Iraq."

The city of Ashur was the first capital of the once-prosperous, 5,000-year-old Assyrian empire. It was the religious center of the Assyrian empire because the temple of their national god Ashur was built within the city. Ashur also served as the place for the crowning and burial of Assyrian kings. The city was later conquered by the Babylonians. Yet, many of its most impressive buildings were left intact, including the imposing ziggurat that stands on a cliff above the nearby town of Sharqat. The team found that the plateau is now being rapidly eroded by the river and artifacts are being swept away in the current.



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