A British museum houses this relief of an eagle-headed protective spiri from about 865-860 BC, the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud. Photo by villorejo/Shutterstock
"I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity's ancient heritage," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said.
"We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity's cultural heritage," she added.
"I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as the heritage of the whole of humanity."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement Friday echoing Bokova's concerns.
"The secretary-general is deeply disturbed by these events and calls on political and religious leaders in the region to raise their voices in condemnation of these unacceptable attacks," the statement said. "The deliberate destruction of our common cultural heritage constitutes a war crime and represents an attack on humanity as a whole."
The city of Nimrud, built in the 1200s B.C., is located south of present-day Mosul in Nineveh province. The location features carvings telling the stories of ancient King Ashurnasirpal II, who made the city his capital in the 800s B.C. Many of the original steles, carvings and sculptures from the site are how housed a museums across the globe.
It's unclear to what extent the archaeological site sustained damage.