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The archaeologists of the Land of Nineveh Archaeological Archaeological Project (LoNAP) inaugurate the restoration of the Great Relief of Sennacherib at Khinis Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Dohuk, 12 October 2012 – The restoration of the Great Relief of Sennacherib was inaugurated on Thursday 12 October 2023 at the Khinis site (Duhok Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan Region). The conservation, documentation and research activities were conducted by a team of conservators and archaeologists from the University of Udine who have been working in the area for about two months.

The masterpiece of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (704-681 BC), the archaeological complex of Khinis embraces a series of unique and extraordinary monuments that date back to the Assyrian era. In particular, the Great Relief, which is the largest rock relief ever carved by Assyrians, measures approximately 9 x 9 meters, and is the largest rock relief existing in the region. Ashur and his wife Mullissu, the most important Assyrian gods, are depicted on the panel, flanked by the king figure on either side of them. This monumental relief, which was carved at the beginning of an Assyrian irrigation canal and carried the water of the Gomel river to Sennacherib’s capital, ancient Nineveh (modern Mosul), was intended to commemorate the canal’s construction and the transformation of the surrounding natural landscape into the king’s desired irrigated landscape.

In order to celebrate the restoration of one of the most important monuments in the region, the University of Udine and the Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage of Duhok have organized an event open to the public on the outskirts of the stunning mountain gorge where the archaeological park is located. Several honorable national and international figures attended the inauguration including HE Sasan Awni, Minister of Municipalities and Tourism of the KRG; HE Ali Tatar, Governor of Duhok; HE Maurizio Greganti, Italian Ambassador to Baghdad; Michele Camerota, Italian Consul in Erbil; Keifi Ali, Director General of Antiquities of the KRG; Bekas Jamaluddin Hasan, Director of Antiquities of Duhok; Ketta Grazia, Representative of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS); Daniele Morandi Bonacossi, Professor of West Asia Archaeology at the Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage of the University of Udine and Director of the project; Francesca Simi, Researcher of West Asia Archaeology at the Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage of the University of Udine and Deputy Director of the project.

The official opening marks the first step of the great project called “Sennacherib’s Archaeological Park” (SAP), which is being funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and seeks to establish a vast archaeological park in the Duhok region.

Hundreds of individuals attended the inauguration in particular young people from Duhok and the villages surrounding the archaeological complex. Among the participants there were also political and religious representatives of the three communities that coexist in the region: Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis.

During the event, the main fine arts institutes in the Duhok province participated in the “Khinis Art Award” competition. This competition, that was supported by the University of Udine, was part of a broader community engagement initiative for the protection of the cultural heritage in Iraqi Kurdistan.

At the end of the event, the Great Relief was unveiled and all the participants were able to admire the masterpiece restored for the first time after 2700 years by a team of experts led by Isabella Finzi Contini.