Replicas and at Least One Treasure Destroyed by ISIS in Museum

Many of the artifacts depicted in the videos were reproductions. ISIS Media Organization Screenshot

On Thursday, the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video purporting to show members of the group destroying ancient artifacts in Iraq. A group of men takes sledgehammers, drills and chain saws to the statues, leaving them in ruins.

"The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him," one of the men in the video says, according to a translation by Al Arabiya.

A member of ISIS topples a supposed ancient artifact in Iraq. ISIS Media Organization Screenshot

The video was likely filmed in a Mosul museum. ISIS has held control of Mosul for several months, even branding their own police force in the northern Iraq city.

Archaeologists expressed horror at the act, although some believe the destruction is not as bad as it may seem: Some of the statues might be replicas. "You can see the iron bars inside. The original [statues] don't have iron bars," Mark Altaweel, an expert at the Institute of Archaeology at the University College of London, told Channel 4 News. Many of the original statues from the Mosul museum were relocated to a museum in Baghdad before the attack.

A man uses a sledgehammer to break an ancient statue. ISIS Media Organization Screenshot

However, one of the statues destroyed, a stone bull with wings, is an original, believed to have been created in the seventh century. According to Channel 4, the winged bull once stood at the entrance to Nineveh, the ancient town where Mosul is now located. "I think the winged bull is very important locally, because it's one of the few objects that hasn't left the country or gone to Baghdad," an expert told Channel 4.

A member of ISIS attempts to break off a piece of an ancient stone statue. ISIS Media Organization Screenshot

Terrorist organizations have destroyed ancient artifacts in the past, justifying their actions because the groups believe the artifacts were worshipped as false prophets. ISIS has recently destroyed churches, manuscripts and books across Syria and Iraq.