Archaeologists in Iraq find residence of biblical kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon in IS-dug tunnels beneath ruined shrine, according to report

By Times of Israel

February 28, 2017

People inspect the destroyed Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (photo credit/AP)

Archaeologists in Iraq say they have made an unexpected discovery under a site destroyed by Islamic State traditionally thought to hold the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah.

Under a mound covering the ancient city of Nineveh, beneath a shrine destroyed by IS, they found a previously undiscovered palace built in the seventh century BCE for the Biblical Assyrian King Sennacherib and renovated by his son Esarhaddon.

The Nabi Younus shrine in Mosul — which was built on the reputed burial site of a prophet known in the Koran as Yunus and in the Bible as Jonah — was a popular pilgrimage site.

In July 2014, weeks after overrunning Mosul and much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, IS militants rigged the shrine and blew it up, sparking global outrage.

In mid-January, Iraqi troops in Nineveh liberated the site.

“(It is) far more damaged than we expected,” Culture Minister Salim Khalaf said.

But IS also dug tunnels beneath the shrine searching for artifacts to plunder.

Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that in the tunnels she discovered a “marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon thought to date back to the Assyrian empire in 672 BCE.”


Portion of the victory Stele of Esarhaddon over Taharqa, drawn by Faucher-Gudin (public domain, Wikimedia commons)

Although Esarhaddon’s name does not appear, the king is described in terms that were only used to refer to him, referencing his rebuilding of Babylon after his father’s death.

Chapters 18 and 19 of the biblical book of II Kings describe Sennacherib’s unsuccessful attempt to conquer Jerusalem. Upon his return to his palace he was murdered by two of his sons, who then fled, leaving Esarhaddon to take over the kingdom.

“And it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sarezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead,” reads verse 19:37 in Kings II.

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria. Portrait on stone stele. After 671 BC. Pergamonmuseum, Berlin (Public domain, Maur, Wikimedia commons)

Eleanor Robson, head of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, said the terror group’s destruction had opened the way to

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