ACLS Societies Issue Joint Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq


The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), both member societies of ACLS, have joined with the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Society for American Archaeology to condemn the “reprehensible” pillaging and destruction of Assyrian art and other cultural heritage housed in the Mosul Museum and at the Nirgal Gate in Northern Iraq. The ransacking of the museum, which was the subject of a video released on Thursday by Islamic State militants, is only the latest piece of a brutal and destabilizing campaign against the region’s inhabitants. The video shows militants obliterating artifacts that counted as some of the most ancient traces of human civilization in the region, with some pieces dating back over 5000 years.


“The members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) deplore in the strongest possible terms the destruction of works of art held by the Mosul Museum. Pillaging of archaeological sites and cultural repositories to destroy irreplaceable cultural heritage and to disperse rare and important artifacts is reprehensible.  This has caused irreparable damage to the heritage of the people of Iraq and humanity worldwide.

In the face of the current crisis in Iraq, we urge all members with appropriate expertise to provide professional support to the archaeological community to repair damaged works to the degree possible and to identify and reclaim missing objects. We call on authorities, even in these unsettled times, to do what they can to protect the world’s archaeological and cultural materials. And we urge museums and archaeological communities around the world to alert the appropriate international authorities if they believe they have information regarding objects recently stolen from Mosul. While the full extent of the damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage will only become clear after greater stability is restored, the material culture from more than 5,000 years of history is under extremely serious threat and we must take immediate action."


To read the full statement on the AIA’s website, visit Since August 2014, ASOR has worked with the US Department of to document the cultural heritage sites of Syria and to raise international awareness about the threats to their preservation.

For decades, ACLS and its member societies have taken part in efforts to protect cultural heritage endangered by conflict. As one of the leading representatives of humanities scholarship in the United States, ACLS supports learning and research that helps society value and preserve the diverse histories, cultures and languages of our world. For more information about ACLS’s work, visit