Jihadi bulldoze ancient city
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March 6, 2015

Jihadi, loyal to the nascent Islamic state have begun systematically looting and bulldozing several ancient cities - notably the Assyrian capital of Nimrud with the apparent aim of completely erasing them.

Although the official line is that their motivation is unclear, it would fit with traditional jihadi doctrine of destroying residues of pre-Islamic culture1 to indicate that there is no way back from Islam. Additionally most schools of Islam enforce a strict prohibition on the depiction of anything with eyes as an extension on the prohibition of the creation of idols common with Christianity and Judaism2, which tends to lead naturally to the destruction of anything but the most abstract figurative art.

It is also expected that artifacts looted from Nimrud will be smuggled out of the Islamic State and sold on the international black market to raise funds for further jihad.

As with most acts of the Islamic state, this has already been denounced by most civilised nations and proclaimed to be a war crime by the UN.


1. The Telegraph's take on the story.

Game and Story Use

  • In a modern game, the smuggled artifacts are a ready source of plot hooks.
    • Even a strictly mundane setting could have them merely as a store of value to be stolen (if the PCs are criminals) or seized (if they work for law enforcement) or a valuable lead to a terrorist funding pipeline (if the terrorists themselves are the target).
      • Of course, an "ordinary decent criminal" might find themselves fingered as a terrorist's mate if they handle this sort of thing. Even if they nicked it off the actual terrorists.
    • More fantastic settings might have all sorts of nasty stuff pouring onto the world market - somehow it seems likely that IS would be entirely happy for dangerous occult items to be rolling about where they could harm the khufar.
    • A dilemma for a museum curator or the like: the artifacts are going to be destroyed or lost if you don't buy them, but if you do buy them you're financing terrorists.
  • Likewise the demolition of the ruins
    • Archaeologist PCs with poor timing could be in the middle of a dig when their site is overrun - and this could happen pretty much anywhere that mass jihad is possible (so from central Asia down to central Africa, plus large chunks of SE Asia and Oceania). Depending on plot the PCs might have to run for safety or hold out until rescue arrives (in the case of a "flash in the pan" insurgency or where the PCs can call for external rescue) - and holding out might mean cat-and-mouse amongst the ruins or a two fisted guerrilla battle against a horde of jihadi mooks, depending on your campaign.
    • All sorts of canned evil could be unsealed by random destruction of ancient cities - the ancient Mesopotamians had some distinctly dicey deities, let alone demons.
  • Easily recycled in different settings:
    • Historically, this could go back to the fall of the Roman Empire with Huns, Goths or (literal) Vandals tearing down cities for fun and profit - and the Mongols did similar things in many places. Very recently Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge also put a lot of effort into destroying the cities of Cambodia.
      • Ironically, the actual Vandals, like so many "destructive barbarian hordes" actually preserved a lot of archaeological evidence by creating ruin layers out of stuff that might otherwise have been recycled or otherwise destroyed. They stole what was valauble, but left a lot of mundane material buried in the rubble that provides useful information to modern excavators. The jihadi, by contrast, are very deliberately erasing evidence.
    • In a fantasy world ancient, abandoned cities are traditionally common - so are orcs, generic barbarians and demon worshippers who could probably give the IS a run for their money in savagery.
    • Sci-fi gives us the prospect of precursor cities, full of priceless knowledge about the galaxy's past (not to mention shiney tech), threatened by alien locusts or material hungry Heg-Swarms.
      • Likewise, a civilisation that has had a phase in which history was deliberately erased (for example, by a movement like the islamic state) may have all sorts of skeletons in their closet that they are unaware of, even if they have recovered culturally since then there may be things they don't know they don't know … but need to.
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