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Monuments of Mosul in Danger

The project Monuments of Mosul in Danger (Ohrožená architektura města Mosulu) – supported by the Oriental Institute, The Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, and the research programme Strategy AV21 of The Czech Academy of Sciences – was launched in reaction to a serious threat to the Mosul architectural sites from ISIS (Daesh), who seized the town in June 2014. Since then, dozens of historical sites have been razed to the ground or severely damaged. Monuments of diverse types, such as mosques, madrasas, mausolea, graveyards, churches and monasteries have been subject to destruction. 

Mosul architecture has only been marginally researched by Western scholars. Because of this, we are not aware of how much world cultural heritage we have been deprived of. The first and only systematic survey of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish monuments in Mosul was conducted by Ernst Herzfeld in 1907–1908. Subsequently, only several aspects of Mosul medieval architecture have been written about by, among others, Ugo Monneret de Villard and Eugen Wirth. Mosul architecture has been studied by many outstanding Iraqi researchers (e.g., Sa‛id al-Diwahji, Tariq Jawad Janabi, Ahmad Qasim al-Jum‛a, Ahmad al-Sufi, al-Kubaisi, al-Tutunchi, and others). Their research, however, remains largely unrecognized by the Western historical and archeological discourse.
The project Monuments of Mosul in Danger has four aims:
1.      monitoring destructive activities in Mosul by means of satellite imagery; identification of destroyed sites; creation of an interactive map of destroyed monuments
2.      architectural and historical analysis of destroyed monuments by means of preserved visual (photographs, documentary films) and plan documentation as well as historical and recent descriptions published by Iraqi scholars (the collected documentation will be made accessible for further research)
3.      mapping of all identifiable extant historical monuments in the town, which will be made accessible through a complex interactive map
4.      analysing the ideological background of the destruction (religious edicts, rationale, historical precedences)
Main outputs of the project
  • The project website including a list and an interactive map of destroyed monuments created through the analysis of satellite imagery; the list and the map are interconnected with profiles of individual monuments showing satellite images documenting the scope of the destruction. The map documents the situation as of the end of August 2015. The website is accessible at monumentsofmosul.com.
  • The exhibition "Monuments of Mosul in Danger" which took place between February 8 and March 31, 2017 at The Galery of Science and Art, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
  • Currently, the research team is working on a catalogue of destroyed monuments of Mosul to be published in 2018.


Conference presentations


  • Karel Nováček - International Conference on Iraqi medieval and historical architecture. Deliberate destruction and challenges for conservation and restoration, Berlin, 31. 8 – 1. 9. 2016 (talk: The Endangered Islamic Architecture of Mosul).
  • Lenka Starková - The Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG) 2016 Annual Meeting, Plzeň 7. 9. – 9. 9. 2016 (poster: Architecture in Mosul: GIS solution for documenting and protecting the extremely endangered cultural heritage)
  • Lenka Starková - 15. ročník mezinárodní mezioborové konference Počítačová podpora v archeologii 2016, Velké Pavlovice 30. 5. 2016 – 1. 6. 2016 (poster: Architektura města Mosulu: GIS řešení pro dokumentaci a ochranu extrémně ohroženého kulturního dědictví)
  • Ondřej Beránek - 50th Annual Conference of MESA (Middle East Studies Association), Boston, USA, 17. – 20. 11. 2016. Contribution: “The Islamic State and taswiyat al-qubur”.
  • Ondřej Beránek – participation in a panel discussion “Islamic State: Destruction of the Living and Dead”, 14. 11. 2016, Washington, D.C.
  • Ondřej Beránek – annual conference organized by DAVO (German Middle East Studies Association) and DMG (Islamic Studies Section of the German Oriental Society), Bochum, Germany, September 2015. Contribution: “The Islamic State and the Destruction of Monuments”.




  • Miroslav Melčák - Ondřej Beránek: „ISIS’s Destruction of Mosul’s Historical Monuments: Between Media Spectacle and Religious Doctrine”. International Journal of Islamic Architecture, vol. 6, issue 2, 2017, forthcoming.
  • Miroslav Melčák: „Islámský stát a likvidace architektonického dědictví: Příklad Mosulu“. In: Ondřej Beránek a Bronislav Ostřanský (eds.): Islámský stát: Blízký východ na konci časů. Praha: Academia, 2016, s. 199–215.
  • Karel Nováček – Miroslav Melčák: „K záchraně kulturního dědictví v Mosulu“. Akademický bulletin AV ČR 4, 2015, s. 18–19.
  • Karel Nováček: „Mosul: kataklyzma a historická architektura“. Kuděj 2, 2014, s. 115–121.


Responses in media (selection)


Project Team


Ondřej Beránek, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences (beranek@orient.cas.cz)
Miroslav Melčák, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences (melcak@orient.cas.cz)
Karel Nováček, Palacký University, Olomouc (karel.novacek@upol.cz)
Lenka Starková, University of West Bohemia, Plzeň (lstarkov@kar.zcu.cz)