> TELEPHONE US 212.355.5710

Italy Gifts Replica Of Destroyed Statue To Iraq

February 15, 2024
A group of men in suits inspecting a large sculpture

Former Italian culture minister Francesco Rutelli with Italian president Sergio Mattarella viewing the Bull of Nimrud at the Colosseum (photo courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Culture)

Iraq recently received a gift from Italy, replacing an ancient artifact destroyed in 2015. Restoration expert Nicola Salvioli led a team to re-create a ninth-century BCE Assyrian statue from the ancient city of Nimrud in Iraq. Dubbed The Bull of Nimrud, the replica was made using a 3D printer and then coated in stone dust to imitate the statue’s original material. Despite the name, it is not actually a bull but an ancient mythological creature called a lamassu. These creatures have a bull’s body, an eagle’s wings, and a bearded man’s head. During the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the lamassu were often placed at the entrances of buildings, especially palaces, since they were seen as royal guardians.

The original statue upon which this replica is based was destroyed in 2015. At the time, the Islamic State had become known for destroying an unknowable amount of art and artifacts that were considered un-Islamic. Therefore, pre-Islamic artifacts comprised a substantial amount of destroyed art in the region. This was the same fate as the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which Taliban forces destroyed after considering them pagan idols. When the Islamic State took the city of Mosul, they sought to destroy the archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud, which had been used as the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire between 879 and 706 BCE. When Iraqi forces retook the city of Mosul and the Nimrud archaeological site in October and November 2016, it was reported that approximately 90% of the ancient city was completely destroyed by bulldozers.

The Bull of Nimrud replica was originally exhibited to the public in the Colosseum in Rome not long after Nimrud’s destruction. The statue was later exhibited at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. And now, the Italian government has officially gifted this replica to Iraq, standing outside the entrance of the Basra Museum. Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, stated that this single act of friendship between the two countries will help to “advance international collaboration in the field of cultural heritage protection and to work for the enhancement of the heritage of humanity.”