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.
So many people contribute amazing posts to AHetc about their travels around the ancient world. I recently went through them all and found some posts that feature places I want to visit someday. I’m hoping, that like me, you find some inspiration and ideas looking through them too. To view the posts, click on the accompanying image.
Our Rome visit in Photos
Everyone loves to see the photos you took when travelling, which is why I adore this post. Earlier this year two of the AHE team, Jan and James, visited Rome to present at a conference. They kindly took a bunch of photos of this ancient world for those of us that couldn’t go with them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cuneiform is considered the single most significant legacy of the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. It was developed c. 3500-3000 BCE, is considered the first written language created, and was used for well over 1000 years. The oldest-dated cuneiform tablets mostly contain records of business transactions. However, over the centuries, cuneiform tables covered various different topics such as affairs of state, religion, magic, history, contracts, and were used for personal and professional communication (letters).
Thursday, September 25, 2014
I was attending a neurology symposium in Erbil (Hawler), the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. ِAfterwards, I headed to one of my relatives’ to pay him a visit; my family was with me. My relatives insisted we should stay in their home and spend a couple of days with them. And I thought, why not! At night, I surfed the net about rock reliefs in Iraqi Kurdistan and found one result that told of a relief in the village of Hareer called Rock Relief of Harir (Arabic: منحوتة حرير; Kurdish: نه خشي هه رير). I wondered what it was. I tried desperately to find any additional useful information about this relief, but I was unsuccessful!
Friday, September 26, 2014
My relative, Dana Hiwa and I drove my car to the village of Hareer (or Harir; Arabic حرير; Kurdish هه رير). It was north to the city of Hawler about an hour and a half by car (36°33’48.47″N; 44°20’53.52″E). As there were no clues, I was not able to find the precise location of the relief. I asked many local villagers about it; they were somewhat suspicious and I received no answer. Finally, around 1:00 PM I called my dear friend, Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah (director of the Sulaymaniyah Museum). He replied positively and told me that an archaeologist who lived nearby could help me out; Mr. Hashim phoned him. After five minutes the archaeologist, Mr. Hemin Rashid called me and asked where I was. He arrived in 15 minutes.
An archaeologist friend of mine once told me: “Less than 5% of the Mesopotamian history has been found, and wherever you dig, anywhere in the land of Mesopotamia, you will discover something.”
This story comes from Erbil (Hawler) Governorate. About 100-200 m away from the Citadel of Erbil (Arabic: قلعة أربيل; Kurdish: قهڵای ههولێر), an old house with a large garden was sold to an investment company. The company demolished the house and started to dig the foundation of a large building in late April 2015.
In response to my questions, Architectural Engineer Sarbast Mahmood Ahmed replied:
We were working 24/7. It was around 10 PM when we were digging the foundation of the building. The caterpillar excavator had reached 6 m in depth. Suddenly, one of the workers noticed that the machine had removed earth in addition to bricks. We stopped digging. After sunrise, we saw that we had unearthed what appeared to be a grave. Part of the grave was damaged while we were digging. Immediately, we informed the General Directorate of Antiquities. A specialized team arrived after a few hours and they prohibited us from further work. They did a short-lived excavation work within a few days together with a French archaeological team. The grave contained the skeleton of a human body. It seems that the corpse was laid on its left side. Nothing else was in the grave, no pottery or gold. The French team took the skeleton allowing for construction work to continue. I have been told that the skeleton was transferred to France using a private airplane. One of the team members told me that the unearthed grave dates back to the neo-Assyrian period. But I do not know whether the skeleton was a male or a female, an adult or a teen.
I was taking photos in the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum and came across a display case containing a small clay tablet. The description beside it said the tablet was part of the Epic of Gilgamesh and a fragment of tablet V. Immediately I thought it was a ‘replica’ as the description was superficial. It did not say the tablet was genuine, that it was newly discovered or even told about the many new pieces of information it had revealed.
After the US-led invasion of Iraq and the dramatic looting of Iraqi and other museums, the Sulaymaniyah Museum (directed by the council of ministers of Iraqi Kurdistan) started an initiative. They paid smugglers to ‘intercept’ archeological artifacts on their journey to other countries. No questions were asked about who was selling the piece or where it came from. The Sulaymaniyah Museum believed this condition kept smugglers from selling their merchandise to other buyers, as they would have otherwise done so ‘with ease and without any legal consequences.’