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Cultural Terror Campaign

November 19, 2015

Satellite surveillance documents ISIS’s targeted destruction of sacred landmarks.



A still image from an ISIS propaganda video shows an extremist destroying a Neo-Assyrian sculpture dating between 800-600 BC from the ancient site of Nineveh in Mosul, Iraq.


Terror that targets hope. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Just as Al Qaeda targeted the symbolically important World Trade Center and Pentagon, ISIS is targeting the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq. University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Katharyn Hanson says that along with videos of executions, ISIS disseminates imagery showing the destruction of sacred artwork, monuments and shrines—acts intended to crush the spirit of local people.

KATHARYN HANSON (University of Pennsylvania Museum Cultural Heritage Center):

It is very effectively pairing violence against human life with destruction of cultural sites. And there is a very serious link that we’re noting in our research with that.


Using satellite imagery and eyewitness reports, Hanson and colleagues at the AAAS Geospatial Technologies Project are documenting the destruction, working to protect potential targets, and trying to stop the sale of artifacts ISIS has looted.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.