This article argues that the campaign of antiquities destruction waged by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) should be understood in the context of the group's rejection of the nation-state. The Ba'athist regimes of Iraq and Syria used archaeology not only as a tool to promote national unity but also as an ideological narrative to portray their states as continual recapitulations of their pasts. As a result, the pre-Islamic past came to be associated with secular nationalism. Since the secular state demands obedience to secular law, ISIS views it as idolatrous as it demands allegiance apart from God. The group considers the secular sacralization of antiquities in support of nationalism to be an aspect of this form of idolatry that justifies their destruction. Future efforts at cultural heritage preservation in the region will need to take into account the decline of Arab nationalist movements which once supported them.

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