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Exhibitions

Wall Reliefs: Ashurnasirpal II at the North-West Palace

(Property of) the palace of Assurnasirpal (II), vice-regent of Assur, chosen of Enlil and Ninurta, beloved of Anu and Dagan, destructive weapon of the great gods, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta (II), great king, strong king, king of the universe,…”

This is how Ashurnasirpal II, a harsh king, described himself at the beginning of his “Standard Inscription”, which was carved horizontally onto the North-West Palace’s wall reliefs at Nimrud. A real terror of the Middle East, Ashurnasirpal II decisively crushed any revolt, massacred defeated rebels, and even burned children and women after an uprising; heartless and merciless!

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Education

Wall Reliefs: Assyrian Apkallus from Nimrud holding a Goat and Deer

When you enter Room 7 of the British Museum, after passing through two colossal lamassus, you are taken through time to the North-West Palace of the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE). This is the imperial palace of the King in Nimrud (ancient Kalhu or Biblical Calah; Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq), the capital city at the heart of the Assyrian Empire. Room 7 is a long hall “decorated” with alabaster-bas wall reliefs from that palace. After being neglected for more than 2500 years, British archaeologist Sir Henry Layard and his workmen unearthed the remains of the North-West Palace in 1845. Layard shipped many reliefs on the Apprentice and these large and heavy slabs reached the British Museum in January 1849. I will publish a series of articles about these reliefs, addressing their finer details, which are not easily recognised.

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Exhibitions

The White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I

In July 1853, Hormuzd Rassam was excavating an area at the ruins of the mound of Kuyunjik  (Nineveh, Mesopotamia, modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), one of the most important cities in the heartland of the Assyrian Empire. The area was an open space between the outer court of the palace of the Assyrian King Sennacherib and the Ishtar Temple. About 200 feet northeast of the palace, Rassam dug a trench that went down about 15 feet from the surface of the mound. At this point, his workmen found a large, 4-sided, monolith pillar; it was an obelisk, somewhat whitish in colour. The obelisk was lying on it sides. An artist, C. D. Hodder, who accompanied Rassam on his expedition, made drawings of the 4 sides of the obelisk in situ. It is now known as the White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I and housed in the British Museum.

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Photos

Siege of Lachish Reliefs at the British Museum

In this post, we will explore images of the Siege of Lachish Reliefs and the story they depict. While these reliefs have been studied by countless people, not many do so through the eyes of the Lachish people. This time, we will consider the Lachish people and hopefully gain a humanitarian perspective.

From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 9-10. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Categories
Photos

Assyrian Wall Reliefs from the Sulaymaniyah Museum

Most, if not all, of our readership knows about the intentional destruction of ancient artifacts, buildings, mosques, shrines, and the contents of Mosul museum contents by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Governorate of Mosul in Iraq is the site of several ancient Assyrian cities (Nimrud, Kouyunjik, and Dur-Sharrukin), in addition to Hatra. The 3,000 year old ancient city of Kalhu (modern-day Nimrud; Biblical Calah) received the bulk of the blow, and a propaganda video issued by ISIS in April 2015 showed the dramatic and shocking explosion of the northwest palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II.

The in situ artifacts of Nimrud were composed of palace wall reliefs, mainly from the northwest palace of Ashurnasirpal II,and few lamassu, which are mythical human-headed and winged bulls or lions. Thanks to the great work and excavations conducted by archaeologists from many parts of the world, in addition to Iraqis, artifacts from the Assyrian city of Nimrud are now displayed to the public in many museums and private collections all around the globe.

Detail of a gypsum wall relief from the North-West at Nimrud. What has survived is a left hand of an Apkallu (Akkadian, which means sage). The hand grips on the handle of a buckle. The buckle is supposed to contain a fluid (?water for purification). The cuneiform text of the so-called "Standard Inscription" of Ashurnasirpal II runs over the relief. At the right upper angle, part of the "Sacred Tree" appears. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Detail of a gypsum wall relief from the northwest at Nimrud. What has survived is the left hand of an apkallu (Akkadian word meaning “sage”). The hand grips on the handle of a buckle. The buckle is supposed to contain a fluid, perhaps water for purification. The cuneiform text of the so-called “standard inscription” of Ashurnasirpal II runs over the relief. At the right upper angle, part of the “sacred tree” appears. From the northwest Palace at Nimrud (room and panel numbers are unknown). Northern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. Assyrian, 865-860 BCE. On display, the Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Categories
Exhibitions Photos

Visiting the Erbil Civilization Museum

I was attending a neurology event in Erbil (the ancient city of Arbela also known as Hawler in Kurdish), which is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. The last time I had visited the Erbil Civilization Museum (Kurdish: موزه خانه ي شاره ستاني هه ولير  ; Arabic: متحف أربيل الحضاري) was in September 2014. In comparison to the Sulaymaniyah Museum (the other archaeological museum in Iraqi Kurdistan), this museum is much smaller in terms of size and number of displayed antiquities. However, it has a considerable collection of interesting artifacts to view. The following is a tour of some of the museum’s highlights, which are little-known outside of Iraq.

Erbil Civilization Museum, Hawler City, Erbil Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Erbil Civilization Museum, Erbil Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Categories
Exhibitions Photos

The Egyptian Tomb-Chapel Scenes of Nebamun at the British Museum

In 1821 ten paintings were purchased from Mr. Henry Salt (1780-1827) and arrived at the British Museum. The eleventh painting was acquired in 1823. Each painting appeared to have been mounted with a slightly different support material. Finger marks and hand prints on the backs of many of the paintings suggest that the paintings were laid face down onto a surface and that a thickened slurry-mix of plaster was applied to the back of the mud straw. All these paintings have undergone extensive conservation.

In 1835, the paintings were put on display to the public within the “Egyptian Saloon” (now the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery) at the British Museum. They were then given the inventory display numbers (nos. 169-70, 171-81). However, at the beginning of the 20th century they were given their current inventory numbers of EA37976-86. There is little indication that they originally came from the same tomb-chapel.

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Photos

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III at the British Museum

I was attending an event at the Royal College of Physicians of London in early March 2016, and I had a plenty of time to spare. One of my targets was, of course, the British Museum. Two years ago, Jan van der Crabben (founder and CEO of the Ancient History Encyclopedia) asked me to draft a blog article about the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, but I lacked detailed and high-quality images of all aspects of the obelisk. Nowadays, I’m equipped with a Nikon D750 full-frame camera and incredible lenses. So let’s spend some time looking at the obelisk and enjoy its wonderful artistic scenes.

The obelisk lies at the heart of Room 6 of the Ground Floor. The overall surrounding lighting is unfortunately scarce, but who cares, my camera can overcome this very easily! Remember, no “flash” photography is allowed.

Categories
Travel

Paleolithic Caves in Iraqi Kurdistan

There are two Paleolithic caves in Iraqi Kurdistan (the northeast area of the Republic of Iraq): Hazar Merd and Shanidar. Iraq, the cradle of civilization, has become a dangerous destination for tourists. Instead of discussing their deep archaeological details, I will you take on a cyber-tour to see these caves.

Hazar Merd Group of Caves

Hazar Merd Cave (Kurdish: هه زار ميرد ; Arabic: هزار مرد) is located in the area where I live. Each and every day, when I go to work at 8 AM, I see the mountain which houses the cave. It is located within the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah. It lies 13 km (35°29’39.22″N;  45°18’37.66″E) to the west of modern-day Sulaymaniyah city, Kurdistan Region, Iraq.

It is not a single cave, but rather a collection of adjacent caves of various sizes within a cliff of a small mountain. The usual destination for tourists is two caves; the largest cave (see the image below) and an adjacent cave to the left of it (Ashkawty Tarik in Kurdish, “the Dark Cave”), where most of the excavation works were conducted. The cave appears to date back to 50,000 years BCE.

In 1928, the British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968) conducted a short-term excavation in the caves. She unearthed hand-axes, animal bones, and other stone tools, but no human remains were found. Some of these artifacts are housed in the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad and in the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Sulaymaniyah Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan. Nowadays, the site is very easily accessible! I go there every now and then with my daughter.

Heading from Sulaymaniyah to Hazar Merd caves. The largest cave appears clearly within the cliff of the mountain. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Heading from Sulaymaniyah city to Hazar Merd caves. The largest cave appears clearly within the cliff of the mountain. The smaller cave next to it (on the right side of the viewer) is Ashkawty Tarik (Kurdish for “The Dark Cave”). These two caves were excavated by Dorothy Garrod in 1928. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
Categories
Exhibitions Travel

Visiting the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

During my last visit to London, I resided in a hotel at Gower Street of Bloomsbury. By chance, I discovered a hidden gem within the heart of University College London while surfing Google. It was located just few minutes away from me: the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The Museum lies at Malet Place, hidden away from the main streets.

The Museum’s building and façade do not convey any message to the public that this is one of the most important museums in the world, housing more than 80,000 ancient Egyptian objects and artifacts! Actually, it ranks fourth, after the Cairo Museum, the British Museum, and the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in terms of the number of quality of ancient Egyptian objects. I emailed the Museum, requesting permission to take no-flash photos of the objects. Ms. Maria Ragan, the manager of the Museum, kindly replied and granted me permission. OK, let’s go!

The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum's rooms are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
The facade of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, Malet Place
London. The entrance door is just behind the walking women (with the blue dress). It will take you to the upper floor where the Museum’s rooms (halls) are located. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.