The practice of armies pillaging perceived treasures from conquered territories and destroying what remains is nothing new. Throughout history, communities, religious groups, and entire cultures have been victims of barbaric destruction, mostly in the name of primitive intolerance for any number of ideologies—race, ethnicity, religion, etc. While lovers of culture may lament the loss, there's nothing particularly radical about art destroyed by terrorists in the name of a cause.
In the 2010s, the Middle East leads the way in the destruction of art and artifacts, most of them ancient; the number of historical sites destroyed by ISIS increases each year. The collective power vacuum that came in the wake of the Arab Spring allowed swaths of land to fall under ISIS control. ISIS fighters come from all over the world, including the United States, and they almost unanimously prefer any variation of "ISIS" over the term "Daesh." Well, f*ck what they want. The remainder of this list will refer to them only as Daesh.
Daesh's isolated interpretation of religion fuels an incendiary agenda to violently rid the world of non-Islamic symbols of faith. The organization seems intent on having history erased by demagogues. This list purposely focuses on historical sites and beautiful artifacts destroyed by terrorists in lieu of the additionally horrendous loss of life that accompanies such extreme iconoclasm.
Temple Of Baalshamin - Palmyra, Syria
As stated by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, “Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.”
The entire city of Palmyra is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its famously well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, and the Temple of Baalshamin was among the most intact structures in the region. It was substantially rebuilt and converted from a temple to a church in 131 CE, to keep pace with the spread of Christianity. It stood in this form for nearly 2,000 years.
Daesh took control of Palmyra in May 2015, and callously continued its doctrine of destroying any artifact deemed “pagan.” The Temple of Baalshamin was in the cross hairs, and was completely destroyed with explosives in July or August 2015. UNESCO declared the act a war crime.
Temple Of Bel - Palmyra, Syria
Barely three months after wiping away the Temple of Baalshamin, Daesh focused its destructive efforts on the nearby Temple of Bel. Its namesake was a Mesopotamian title applied to various gods throughout the ancient Near East. The Temple of Bel was less than 1,000 meters from the Temple of Baalshamin.
The location of the Temple of Bel has archeological signs of human occupation dating back to 3,000-2,000 BCE. The structure itself wasn’t built until much later (over the course of the first and second centuries), though it was dedicated in 32 CE. So, the Temple of Bel managed to last more than 1,900 years, in a location that has been used for nearly 5,000 years, but the sadistic tunnel vision of Daesh reduced it to ashes in August 2015.
Tomb Of Jonah - Mosul, Iraq
Jonah was a prophet with historical significance in Christianity (Jonah), Judaism (Yonah), and Islam (Yūnus). He is the only one of the Twelve Minor Prophets from the Bible mentioned by name in the Qur’an. In the ancient city of Nineveh, the Mosque of the Prophet Yūnus was built atop what's believed to be the Christian burial site of Jonah. Even though the mosque was a place for prayer, the notion that it was constructed on a Christian site was enough motivation for Daesh to detonate mass explosives inside the building in July 2014.
After Daesh was driven out of Mosul in early 2017, a tunnel system was discovered under the mosque as a result of the damage. In the tunnels, archeologist Layla Salih discovered artifacts believed to date back to the Assyrian empire in 672 BCE. Daesh’s ill-fated efforts to rid the world of artifacts resulted in a remarkable archeological find filled with idols for the world to worship.
Buddhas Of Bamiyan - Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
A group of monumental standing Buddha statues dating to the 6th-7th century CE, which stood for more than 1,700 years, was reduced to rubble in a matter of weeks in March 2001. Coverage of the Taliban has fallen to the wayside in lieu of Daesh, but the political party’s history is not without atrocities. After nearly a decade of violent political upheaval after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in '88 - '89, the Taliban dominated worldwide news (before 9/11) when it completely destroyed the historic landmarks. Unsatisfied with damage caused by artillery and anti-aircraft weapons, the Taliban resorted to drilling holes to place dynamite throughout the statues. The detonations obliterated the Bamiyan Buddhas.