Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Design

First Advisor

Maria Gindhart

Second Advisor

John Decker

Third Advisor

Janet Stephens

Fourth Advisor

Peter Lindsay


Throughout 2015, the Islamic State (ISIS) was a major news story for its destruction of Ancient Near Eastern collections and heritage sites, which created a spectacle across media. The focus of ISIS’s infamous video uploaded in February of 2015 was the colossal statue of a Lamassu, which was an ancient Assyrian guard deity. By focusing on the Lamassu, this thesis aims to address the Western concept of a “cradle of civilization” and ISIS’s motivation for destroying the sculpture. I utilize Kwame Appiah’s philosophy of cosmopolitanism in order to flesh out the language in which ISIS is communicating, namely through its destruction. What becomes apparent is a complex relationship with Near Eastern antiquities, which is best understood by analyzing the motivations of local looters. To conclude, I use ISIS’s destruction in order to offer thoughts on the concept of destruction with an aim to open dialogue regarding differing cultural value systems.