"I’m so upset I can’t speak about it," said an old friend, her eyes filling with tears.
The huge statues of winged bulls with human heads at the gates of Assyrian palaces are among the most iconic symbols of ancient Mesopotamia. Known as lamassu, they were meant as protective spirits. Their images are recreated on everything from copper plates to the walls of embassy buildings abroad.
The stone statues have guarded the gates of Nineveh in present-day Mosul since the palace was built in the 7th century BC. They stood during the sacking of Nineveh, the rise and fall of the huge Assyrian empire and all the empires that followed.
They stood while the palace was excavated in the 1840s and its treasures carried off to Britain and America. Last week, they fell to men with a power drill and a mission to eradicate every trace of Iraq’s pre-Islamic civilisation.
"Believe me, I couldn’t sleep all night when I heard the statues were destroyed," said Abdullah Doshan, a self-taught sculptor sitting on the ground with a chisel and pieces of stone.