An ancient Iraqi sculpture of a winged bull, which was destroyed by ISIL three years ago, has been reconstructed in central London.
The artwork, resembling the mythical Lamassu which stood in Nineveh, near Mosul, since 700 BC, was unveiled on Wednesday on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.
Designed by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, the statue is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans and took four months to build.
It will remain in the British capital's central square for two years as a testimony to the destruction of Iraqi culture since the 2003 US-led invasion.
Mr Rakowitz told the London Evening Standard that the replica, entitled The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, is a tribute to "something good in the human spirit".
He added that he did not want to make an exact copy of the original statue. “I think of the things that I make as being ghosts or apparitions of what the artefacts were,” he said.
The artist, whose family left Iraq in 1946, has been on a mission to recreate thousands of artefacts that were shattered or stolen in war-torn Iraq and Syria.
He began the project eleven years ago and has so far created around 750 pieces, although he says he is unlikely to ever complete his mission.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called the statue an “act of resistance” against extremism.
Speaking to the AFP news agency, Mr Khan said: "It sends a message loud and clear: we will not be defied, scared or cowed, we will stay united.”
He added: "Your past defines the future. The idea that you can blow up statues and somehow rewrite history I find appalling."
The mayor estimated that around 20 million people will see the statue during its stint on the fourth plinth, which would make it the most visible piece of contemporary art in the world.
The Lamassu originally stood at the gates of Nineveh and was considered a protective deity. It was destroyed when ISIL fanatics rampaged through a museum in Mosul in 2015.
The new monument is 4.5 metres high and weighs 6,000 kilogrammes. The use of recycled Middle Eastern food packaging to recast the statue is intended to symbolise a once thriving industry which has been ruined by years of war.
There are large stone plinths in each corner of Trafalgar Square. Three of them bear permanent statues, while the fourth has been used in recent years to showcase temporary pieces of art.
Mr Rakowitz’s artwork is the 12th to be commissioned to occupy the fourth plinth. Previous works on display included Yinka Shonibare's giant ship in a bottle and Marc Quinn's statue of the English artist Alison Lapper during her pregnancy.
Trafalgar Square is one of the main tourist attractions in the British capital, and is regularly used for official celebrations and ceremonies.