Looters’ Tunnel Uncovers Archeological Surprise
Below the earth a looters’ tunnel has been discovered beneath the tomb of Jonah, a biblical prophet for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.
Jonah’s tomb once served as a shrine, but was blown up by the Islamic State group known as ISIS, or Daesh during the occupation of Nineveh from around June 2014 until January 2017.
The book of Jonah can be found in the bible and recounts the prophet as the son of Amittai who was sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh. In the bible book Jonah tries to escape his divine mission, but eventually succeeds after first being swallowed by a huge fish for three days and three nights.
A total of seven inscriptions were found in four tunnels beneath the prophet Jonah’s tomb in ancient Iraq inside the city of Nineveh.
Its important to note that modern day scholars often divide Assyrian history into three periods: Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian periods, which dates are a source of debate. Archaeologist have dated the recently discovered inscriptions to be about 2,700 years old, which describe the rule of Assyrian king Esarhaddon.
The Assyrians are a people who lived throughout the Middle East in ancient biblical times. Throughout history we know they conquered mass territories spanning from Southern Iraq and the Mediterranean into the Northern kingdom of Israel and beyond.
Both Assyrian inscriptions and the Hebrew Bible say that the Assyrians, under King Sargon II (reign ca. 721-705 B.C.) completely destroyed Israel. Sargon II said in an inscription that he “conquered and sacked” all the towns and cities in Israel and “led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants.” Before this feat king Esarhaddon reigned from about 681 BCE until 669 BCE and was the third king of the Sargonid Dynasty during the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Assyrian king Esarhaddon is mentioned in the bible in II Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38, and Ezra 4:2 and is most known for re-building Babylon, which his father king Sennacherib had destroyed. Babylon and Assyria shared many of the same gods, which is why it is believed king Esarhaddon was moved to rebuild Babylon’s city.
ISIS looters apparently dug the tunnels in search of archeological treasures revealing one inscription that read, “The Palace of Esarhaddon, strong King, king of the world, king of Assyria, governor of Babylong, King of Sumer and Akkad, king of the kings of lower Egypt, upper Egypt and Kush.
Kush leaders ruled Egypt at one point, according to ancient inscriptions found at different archaeological sites, which also say that Assyrian king Esarhaddon defeated the Kush rulers and chose new ones to govern Egypt.
The inscriptions beneath Jonah’s tomb tell of king Esarhaddon’s family history, noting him as the youngest son of his father king Sennacherib and the descendant of his grandfather Sargon II, who was also “king of the world, king of Assyria.”
Yet another newfound inscription beneath the tomb of Jonah says that Esarhaddon “reconstructed the temple of the god Assur,” rebuilt the ancient cities of Babylon and “renewed the statues of the great gods.” The god Assur was known as the chief god of the Assyrians.
Several inscriptions have also been discovered near the tomb of Jonah during the 1987-1992 excavations. One of which was written on prism shaped clay. It discusses king Esarhaddon’s military conquests, calling Esarhaddon “the one who treads on the necks of the people of Cilicia.” Cilicia was located on the southern coast of what is now Turkey.
Esarhaddon claims in the inscription that “I surrounded, conquered, plundered, demolished, destroyed and burned with fire twenty-one of their cities together…” The inscription also discusses his conquest of Sidon, which is located in modern-day Lebanon, claiming that Esarhaddon’s army tore down the city’s walls and threw them into the Mediterranean Sea.
King Esarhaddon was known as an avid follower of astrology, consulting in oracles throughout his reign. Esarhaddon claimed in his own writings that the gods had ordained him to restore Babylon, cleverly omitting information that would implicate his father king Sennacherib for his role in Babylon’s fall.
King Esarhaddon died while on a campaign in Egypt and left the throne to his son, Ashurbanipal. Amongst other accolades king Ashurbanipal assembled in Nineveh the first systematically cataloged library in the ancient Middle East of which approximately 20,720 Assyrian tablets and fragments have been preserved in the British Museum.
The remains of ancient inscriptions from other sites that ISIS attempted to loot and destroy have also been discovered. Thankfully the inscriptions on the walls cannot be ransacked and leave behind ancient details that provide vast insight into archeological history.