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Digital Reconstruction of the Northwest Palace, Nimrud, Assyria

Digital Reconstruction of the Northwest Palace, Nimrud, Assyria

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This video reconstructs the Nortwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud (near modern Mosul in northern Iraq) as it would have appeared during his reign in the ninth century B.C. The video moves from the outer courtyards of the palace into the throne room and beyond into more private spaces, perhaps used for rituals. The video also shows the original location and painted colors of the relief depicting the winged, eagle-headed figure included in the exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age (on view September 22, 2014–January 4, 2015).

For production credits and exhibition information—including sponsorship credits—visit MetMedia:

The Northwest Palace at Nimrud

The palaces of ancient Assyria on the citadel mound of the city of Nimrud (ancient Kalhu, northern Mesopotamia) were discovered by Austen Henry Layard between 1847 and 1851. Layard, assisted by Hormuzd Rassam, excavated stone bas-relief in the debris of the mud brick walls of the public halls of the palaces. Layard and Rassam were followed at Nimrud on behalf of the British Museum by William Kennet Loftus and William Boutcher in 1854-55 and George Smith in 1874-5. Rassam returned there from 1878-82. Then, for nearly half-a-century, except for essentially private visits/excavations to the site of Nimrud by Iraqi families and antiquities dealers, to pick up fragments or scavenge in the citadel ruins, interest in Nimrud waned. Also, there seemed to be nearly enough pieces of Assyrian sculpture around to satisfy interested collectors and museums. No work by trained archaeologists was done again at Nimrud until 1949, when, a century after Layard, Max Mallowan, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq and the British Museum, re-opened the site to research. When Mallowan and his successor, David Oates, completed their tenure at Nimrud, the Iraqi State Organization of Antiquities continued with its own excavation and restoration projects, most recently under the direction of Muzahim Mahmud Hussein. It was during the Iraqi excavations of the 1970's that the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, Warsaw, arrived at Nimrud with a permit to excavate the center of the Nimrud citadel. One of the by-products of the Polish time there was the attention paid to the re-excavated the 9th-century BC Northwest Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II (the paradigmatic royal palace of the late Assyrian empire) and the close collaboration with the continuing presence of the Iraqi mission. Janusz Meuszyński, the director of the Polish project, with the permission of the Iraqi excavation team, had the whole citadel site documented on film, including every bas-relief that remained in situ as well as the fallen, broken pieces that were distributed in the restored rooms across the site or re-excavated in the debris mounds left from the 19th-century excavations. Meuszyński also arranged with the architect of his project, Richard P. Sobolewski, to survey the site and record it in plan and in elevation. The combined and individual efforts of the 20th-century archaeologists would eventually more than triple the size of the Northwest Palace as it was understood from the 19th-century excavations and situate other palaces, administration buildings, temples and defensive walls in their proper places on the citadel mound. The 20th-century work led to the reconstruction of the mud brick walls and arched doorways, and the restoration of bas-relief fragments that remained in the debris of the 19th-century excavations reversing, in part, a century of neglect, and thereby creating a site museum.

After the accidental death of Meuszyński in May, 1976, the Polish work at Nimrud ceased. The late Professor K. Michalowski, then Director of the Polish Center of Archaeology, arranged for Sobolewski and A. Mierzejewski, two of Meuszyński's colleagues, to finish the part of Meuszynski's work that was near completion. This was done with the help of Professor Barthel Hrouda (University of Munich) and Professor Samuel M. Paley (University at Buffalo), who continues to work with Sobolewski to complete the documentation of the archaeological remains of Nimrud. One of the results was a complete documentation and restoration on paper of the Northwest Palace, published by the German Archaeological Institute, including the complete and fragmentary bas-relief slabs that had been taken from Nimrud since Layard’s original discovery and are now to be found in museums and private collections across the world. Another result, eventually, will be the publication of the Polish excavation results in the center of the citadel.

All work at Nimrud was halted as a result of the 2nd Gulf War, in 1991, then started again briefly by the Iraqis in the late 1990s to be stopped again in the aftermath of the 3rd Gulf War, in 2003. With the available information about the Palace collected and a hypothetical restoration on paper of the decoration and its plan available, it seemed timely to make progress in our understanding of the totality of the sculptural program, architectural details, and spatial layout of the Northwest Palace as a single conceptual whole. Since the site was increasingly out of the reach of scholars and tourists, a digital model of the citadel, which included the results of a century and a half and more of research, was proposed as an alternative to the possibilities of physically visiting the site. Also, with the new technologies available, the physical remains of the decorative elements of the buildings are Nimrud spread across the world, could be included in one digital space. So, in 1998, the next stage of the collaborative, systematic documentation and analysis of the Palace began and is still in progress with the help of Professor Alison B. Snyder, University of Oregon, architect, Donald H. Sanders, archaeologist and computer technologist and his company, Learning Sites, Inc., Professor Thenkurussi Kesavadas (University at Buffalo Mechanical Engineering and the director of the UB Virtual Reality Laboratory), in which a 3D computer model of the remains at Nimrud is being constructed, digitally linked to explanatory hypertext, 2D and 3D images, and a virtual world of the Northwest Palace, allowing scholars to study the complex as if at the site.

Some of the new questions being asked of the palace’s digital model are:

  • Why was certain bas-relief motifs placed so that they were visible through doorways?
  • Was this part of some decorative plan that related to the functions of the rooms and the narrative propaganda of Assyrian kingship?
  • How was the palace lighted?
  • Were the bas-reliefs painted and how much paint was used?
  • Are there new architectural, spatial and decorative relationships that can be discovered from the study of an interactive, digital model of the palace and the citadel mound in comparison with other Assyrian palaces and citadels constructed during the Assyrian Empire. (To this end, more digital models of other Assyrian buildings have been proposed as part of the larger project.)

To try to answer such questions before was more difficult because, since Layard, who tried to understand the Palace decoration as a whole -- he had seen it unfold before him for the first time in 2600 years as it was excavated -- most scholars since Layard studied individual bas-reliefs or small groups of them to understand style and iconography rather than context. Recent publications, now that the “paper reconstructions” of the Northwest Palace are available and parts of the digital model can be studied, have introduced the discussion of the meaning of the motifs and their use in the specific contexts in the decorated wings of the palace. Thus the computer model of the palace and its virtual world has become an integral element in the study of ancient Assyria.

The Iraqis were still excavating at Nimrud when the Gulf War broke out in 1990, attesting to the fact that more building are there to be discovered. Comparing Layard's plan of the Palace to what is now known, that is the plan ca. 1850 vs. that of the 1990s the size of the Palace is estimated to be 175+ meters long from north to south by 75+ meters wide from east to west, or roughly 5700 square meters in size on the ground floor. This is over three times the size known from Layard's time. About a third of the Palace still remains buried and numerous details of architectural theory, construction methods and materials, plan, drainage, roofing etc. are yet to be worked out. Considering the state of preservation of the Citadel of Nimrud, the far-flung distribution of the fragments of decoration of its buildings, the dangers to its existing, preserved remains from natural environment, pollution and robbery, and the present political situation in the area, there will be no real experience for this generation of students to walk through its rooms and see and appreciate its grandeur. This is the reason why the virtual reality reconstruction is being prepared: it will bring together all existing information about the citadel and will provide a visualization of the first of the great Late Assyrian palaces in its architectural context in a way not possible even at the site museum. Students and scholars who would not be able to visit Iraq in the best of times will be able to study the buildings and everyone will be able to visit its ruins with new incites learned from the virtual reality model.

It is the plan of the collaborators in this project to expand the work to other Assyrian sites and their public buildings, palaces and temples. A preliminary project has been funded to include the 8th-century palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud (The Shelby White-Leon Levy Fund for Archaeological Research at Harvard University) and the 7th-century palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh (also discovered by Layard), the latter with Professor Sarah Jarmer Scott of Wagner College using the digital cameras of Mr. Adam Lowe of Factum Arte, Madrid ,to document bas-relief in 3D. UB has assisted the project with digital research funds. Private funding has also been received to continue the work of the project.

Digital Reconstruction of the Northwest Palace, Nimrud, Assyria

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Thank you! This is successfully beautiful work. What a wonder!

Are these reliefs and statues in the Brit Museum? Just there and knocked out by the fabulous story it told of lion hunts. The story was riveting.

Would those courtyards actually have been empty like shown or would they have had various structures in them such as workshops and the like?

Assyria is one of those civilizations that people (outside of the historical profession) don’t tend to discuss that much, but were supremely important and influential in their time, and their legacy still lives on in much of northern Iraq, Eastern Turkey, northwest Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. They forged one of the most powerful empires to ever exist - people forget just how impressive their army was. Although we never got to see it, I’ll bet they could’ve defeated an Alexander the Great type figure - especially on their turf.

They ruled too harshly though and turned all their subjects and neighbors against them. And that turned out to be an extremely important lesson for Cyrus the Great who would come after the Assyrians to dominant the ancient Near East.

Teaching Violence, Destruction, and Propaganda at Nimrud in Antiquity and Today

A man takes a sledgehammer to a Neo-Assyrian relief in a video released by ISIS on April 11, 2015.

For a period of months last year, news of ISIS’ destruction of ancient cultural heritage sites in Iraq played widely in western media outlets. Between February 26 and April 11, 2015, the group released three videos showing men carrying out the destruction of ancient artifacts and architecture at the Mosul Museum, Hatra, and the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu). This campaign culminated over the summer with the drawn-out demolition of sites in the ancient city of Palmyra. The UNESCO World Heritage Site also served as a backdrop for the public executions of ISIS prisoners including the site’s lead archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad. The videos ISIS has released to document and celebrate these exploits have revealed the role that art plays in contemporary discourses of identity and power.

From the Guardian’s “Palmyra after Isis: a visual guide” (“Archaeologists feared they would find widespread devastation after Palmyra was recaptured from Islamic State by pro-Assad forces in March. While the ancient city’s most famous monuments were desecrated, other notable artefacts survived and experts hope the whole site will be restored.”) Friday April 8, 2016

Samuel Hardy of the conflict antiquities blog calls these films “B-Movies,” and indeed it’s what they are: low-budget flicks reveling in wanton violence and destruction in order to attract a maximum return on viewership. While ISIS had been releasing videos for some time, it finally tapped in to a wider audience with its February 26 video showing the destruction of objects in the Mosul Museum’s Assyrian Collection and artifacts from Hatra and the Nergal Gate at Nineveh. Clips from the video played on the BBC, CNN, and on the website of The New York Times, among other news outlets. I encountered it first on Facebook, where the “Autoplay” feature subjected me to the start of the video before I even knew what I was looking at. Early in the video, the camera captures men unwrapping sculptures from their protective dust cloths. The video then cuts to shots lingering on the statue of a seated woman, a wall of plaques, and a case of artifacts. These shots recalled nothing more strongly than the shots of a slasher movie showing future murder victims in their final moments of ignorant happiness. These stagey shots, meant to heighten the tension of the video, instead called my attention to its constructed nature. While the video was presented as documentation of destruction, viewing it as an art historian I could also see that this film, like all media, was produced to manipulate its viewers. I had to wonder: what was it trying to achieve?

An action shot from ISIS’s April 11, 2015 video: men in military gear break through a wall.

That August, when I asked the students in my freshman survey what they thought of when they considered the terms “art” and “history,” ISIS’ recent spate of destruction came up almost immediately. I began to think about how I might integrate a discussion of the recent events into my survey syllabus. Thinking back to my reaction to the Mosul video, I decided it was not enough to talk about what ISIS is doing I wanted to address how they use visual media to accomplish their aims. ISIS has succeeded in using western news media to make their propaganda films part of our contemporary cultural landscape. But the art historical methods we teach in survey courses provide a means to undermine that agenda, to resist its manipulation through the exercise of critical viewing.

I designed a lesson for my unit on the Ancient Near East that focused on one of the major sites of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and one of ISIS’ recent targets: the Northwest Palace at Nimrud, built by Ashurnasirpal II (r. 883–859 BCE). There are two parts to the lesson: first, a close reading of alabaster reliefs from the throne room of the Northwest Palace today in the British Museum second, viewing and discussion of the video released by ISIS on April 11, 2015 advertising their destruction of the site. In the first part of the lesson, students work in small groups to interpret discrete panels of a relief cycle, then have the opportunity to teach one another about their panels. This close reading exercise provides the chance to exercise some fundamental art historical skills it also makes the destruction of the site as documented in the ISIS video all the more real, even personal.

In a 75-minute class, you can spend the first 45 minutes or so examining reliefs from the palace’s throne room. Plan to look at the relief of the sacred tree originally positioned behind the throne (slab B-23) and the imagery of warfare from the room’s south wall (slabs B-03a through B-11a). (See below for information on images.) These reliefs provide ample opportunities to discuss attributes, different approaches to representing space and narrative, and the role of figural decoration in architectural space. If you have less than 75 minutes for the lesson, skip the sacred tree relief and dive right in to the war.

First, look together at the relief that was originally positioned behind the throne. The alabaster relief shows five figures arranged symmetrically around a sacred tree. Directly above the tree is a god, either Ashur (the national god) or Shamash (the god of sun and justice). The figures to either side represent Ashurnasirpal II, identifiable by his attributes of royal headgear and mace. Both of these figures will reappear in the narrative reliefs, so this gives students a chance to become familiar with their iconography. The figures on the outside of the composition are winged spirits wearing the horns of power also found on lamassu, the colossal winged lion and bull statues that flanked major entrances to the palace. They are asperging the king, possibly to convey, like the sacred tree, the fertility and prosperity of the empire under his rule. This relief provides a good opportunity to practice some formal analysis, discussing the impact of the symmetrical composition and the importance accorded to each figure within it.

From the relief behind the throne, examine the narrative panels on the adjacent long wall. These panels show a few scenes of hunting (near the throne) and many of the violent campaigns that communicated Neo-Assyrian imperial ideology our focus will be the martial scenes. These panels show Assyrians attacking and besieging cities, capturing and killing enemies, and at work in their own camp. Taken together, the panels are rather repetitive. It’s effective to break the students into groups, each studying one panel from the series. Use handouts to give each group a photograph and a line drawing of one panel. Ask them to study these images to determine 1) the identity of the figures 2) the setting of the scene 3) what is going on and 4) what features the artist has included to allow a viewer to recognize these things. It may help to quickly do an example yourself that will give you a chance to point out some further recurring attributes, such as the Assyrian soldiers’ pointed helmets.

Let the students work on their panels for about 5 minutes, then bring the class back together. Prompt students to talk in turn about each of their panels, identifying subjects, setting, and action. Students will find their panels make much more sense in the context of the others, and they will start to contribute to helping their class members decipher each panel. The subject matter is gruesome, which makes it kind of fun. You may not have time to go through each panel in the same detail, but you can prompt students to point out unusual features of later panels (carrion birds eating corpses in the background, or a new type of siege machine). Take some time to discuss how the reliefs work as a whole. Do they show a narrative, or instantaneous events? How does the artist define space and mark the passage of time? Talk, too, about the audience for these reliefs. Installed on the wall leading up to Ashurnasirpal’s throne, they would have been seen not only by the king, but by any formal visitors. How these reliefs present Ashurnasirpal and the Assyrians? How does that presentation compare with other royal or national images you’ve encountered in class so far?

Now that you’ve spent a good deal of time looking at Assyrian Nimrud, turn to the site as it is today. Plan to spend about 30 minutes on this part of the class, including the time it takes to watch the video.

After you’ve shown the video, start discussion with a provocative question: “Is this art?” If you’re teaching a survey, you may have treated this question at the beginning of the course. Restating the question with this video as the subject will force students to further reevaluate their assumptions about art. As you discuss the video further, emphasize the choices made in the acting, filming, and editing of the work. As Hardy points out in his write-up of the video, the scene where the men break through a wall is filmed from the other side of the wall—a framing element meant to heighten the drama of the action, but which simultaneously reveals its gratuitousness. Ask the students how else they noticed the video constructing their gaze what does it want its viewers to see? Who do they think is the audience for this video? For those who respond that it’s propaganda, not art, challenge them further by comparing the video to the representations of graphic violence they’ve just examined from the throne room at Nimrud. Is this art, or propaganda? How do we draw a line between the two?

Students will also likely have a lot of questions about how to protect cultural heritage in unstable regions. They may want to know why outside museums or collectors can’t sweep in and “save” everything. This will give you a chance to discuss the ethics of dealing with looters and the antiquities black market. You can introduce or reinforce the importance of context for an archaeological understanding of an artifact. You should point out, moreover, that illicit trade in antiquities is one of the ways that ISIS supports itself, so buying artifacts on the black market doesn’t thwart ISIS, it supports it. This is also an opportunity to bring up the debate over ownership of cultural heritage. If your students seem energized by this topic, consider exploring it further when you cover Ancient Greece.

Class materials:

  • Images from the website of the British Museum (originals from the British Museum, hosted by AHTR here under a CC 4.0 license) : originally published on YouTube, now removed.

Further reading:

Ancient Nimrud

  • Digital reconstruction of Ashurnasirpal II’s Northwest Palace from the Metropolitan Museum of Art here
  • The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative has an excellent site on the Northwest Palace, with plans, translations of inscriptions, and a list of where different parts of the palace have ended up. Here is their plan of the Throne Room (Room B).
  • Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production is another excellent resource for teaching the site and emphasizes not only the archaeological context of excavated objects, but their modern context in museums.
  • Description and stills of original video on conflict antiquitiesblog. is a shorter, heavily edited version of the video released by AP.
  • This excellent article by Ömür Haramsah addresses ISIS’s videos as spectacle and their manipulation of western media. on ISIS’s involvement in the antiquities trade.

The author extends her thanks to Maggie Beeler, PhD Candidate in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, for sharing her insights and expertise on the Northwest Palace at Nimrud. Thanks also to Lynda Albertson, CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), for sharing her archived file of the ISIS Nimrud video. Researchers and teachers can contact ARCA for further archived cultural heritage records.

New views of Kalhu from new technologies

Image 4: Sam Paley's  PGP  pioneering 3D virtual reconstructions of the Northwest Palace are now hosted by a not-for-profit organisation called Vizin. Here we look east down the throne room, as a visitor approaches the enthroned king. © Learning Sites, Inc. View this image and others on the Vizin website.

The good news, such as it is, is that data and methods already exist that will help to restore order to Nimrud when the time is right, that will compensate to some extent for the losses it has sustained, and which will open up new avenues of research and education.

In the early 1990s, American archaeologist Sam Paley  PGP  began to create a Virtual Reality reconstruction of the Northwest Palace, based on work that he and Polish colleagues Janusz Meuszyński and Richard Sobolewski  PGP  had done together (2) , (3) , (4) . The project has been through many incarnations as the technology has evolved over the past two decades and the original team members have passed away (5) . But the latest published results, from 2011, are impressive (Image 4).

Image 5: Factum Arte have physically recreated the decorative scheme of the throne room. Their technicians visited all the collections now holding relevant Nimrud sculpture in order to create detailed 3D scans. Here we see them at work in the British Museum's  TT  Nimrud galleries. Other team workers then created life-size replicas made of plaster and of imitation marble  TT  . © Factum Arte. View this image in context on the Factum Arte website.

More recently a European company called Factum Arte has developed a method of making life-size physical facsimiles of the Nimrud reliefs. They have also created a new synthetic material called scagliola that imitates Mosul marble  TT  very effectively. Members of its staff spent a decade travelling the world's museums to make 3d scans of bas-reliefs from the throne room of the Northwest Palace (Image 5). In May 2014 they delivered a full-scale replica of the eastern, throne, end of the throne room to the University of Mosul's newly built Institute for Cuneiform Studies. Just a few weeks later, the city was overrun by Da'esh and it is not known what has happened to it. But that is the least of Mosul's worries for now, and the casts can be reproduced.

Rather more prosaically, standard digital photography has enabled collections all over the world to present their Nimrud artefacts online. We have gathered all we can find in the Catalogues section of the site. And, aware of the limitations of Mallowan's  PGP  publications, the British Institute for the Study of Iraq  TT  is beginning a project to digitise the original dig records too — notebooks, photos, plans and slides — in the hope that these will form the backbone of future reconstruction efforts.


Northwest Palace Edit

Excavations at Nimrud began in the 1840s, when explorer Austen Henry Layard first uncovered the city’s remains. [3] Throughout the 1940s and 50s, British archaeologist Max Mallowan led excavations of the ancient city, sponsored by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq. [7] Through his excavations, Mallowan greatly contributed to mapping the topography of the ancient city. [8] Mallowan’s excavations included the southern section of the Northwest Palace where, in 1951, he discovered the so-called “Harem Quarters” underneath room DD. He found an Iron Age, eighth century B.C.E, coffin containing a woman. [9] [3] Mallowan, however, did not search underneath the baked brick pavement flooring of the Southern Section of the Palace. [3]

Discovery of The Queens' tombs Edit

In the late 1980s the Iraqi Department of Antiquities started excavating the Northwest palace of King Assurnasirpal II at Nimrud and discovered four tombs of Neo-Assyrian royal women. [2] In the same general area Mallowan discovered the burial, Muzahim Mahmoud Hussein and his team noticed parts of the brick floor in the Southern Section were sticking up at odd angles. [3] The flooring was removed, which led to the discovery of Tomb I, the first of a total of four sealed tombs uncovered by Hussein located within and underneath the Northwest Palace. The tombs not only housed the bodies of various royal women of the Neo-Assyrian Empire––identified by inscriptions, stamps, and adornment, but contained priceless artifacts such as jewelry, decorations, and ceramics that provided new insight into Assyrian culture and craftsmanship. [9]

Obstacles Edit

Since the discovery, there have been continuous obstacles in the discernment, recording and preservation of data and information from the Queens’ Tombs. Some of the difficulties were due to the age of the find. The burials were disturbed and looted in antiquity, so the original dress and arrangement of bodies and objects is lost. For example, in Tomb II, a second queen was laid on top of the first about 20-50 years later, and this displaced the original position of the first queen and her belongings. As well, in Tomb III, the main coffin was found empty except a bone fragment and one bead, but three other coffins with partial skeletons were found in the antechamber. The unusual arrangement of the coffins and the lack of a body or objects in the main burial suggests that the tomb was looted and possibly rearranged in antiquity. [9]

Archaeologists meticulously excavated Tombs I and IV. But due to security issues, they were forced to hastily dig Tombs II and III. [9] For example, information regarding dimensions, findspots, photographs, and detailed descriptions were sometimes left out of the record. Additionally, these objects now reside in an unknown repository in Iraq, so this information cannot be recovered. [9] In addition to the rushed excavation, archeologists also faced budget cuts, lack of supplies, and insufficient funding due to the outbreak of Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and its subsequent sanctions. [3] These adversities continued with the Gulf Wars. [3]

The difficulties with preserving objects found in the tombs did not end with excavation. Important objects found in the Queen’s Tombs were kept in a vault of Baghdad's central bank. Unfortunately, the bank was bombed twice while the objects were in its care. It was bombed first at the start of 1991 and again during the American invasion in 2003. Miraculously, the vault survived both bombings, but the flooding caused by the second bombing irreparably damaged many of the objects. [3] In addition, the more mundane objects from the excavations, which were kept at the Iraq Museum and the Mosul Museum, were looted during the war and the whereabouts of many of these items remain unknown. [3]

From April 10th-12th 2003, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), which is located in the same complex as and administers the Iraq National Museum, was looted. This incident was a grievous destruction of institutional and cultural memory, in addition, to the unimaginable loss of many archeological finds. Looters destroyed equipment and objects before burning records, during an attempt to set the building on fire. [3] In the aftermath of the looting, programs such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded the reconstruction of destroyed information and manuscripts. One of the projects they funded led to the republication of the original manuscript on the Queen’s Tombs written by Hussein. The original report had been printed in a discolored and inadequate format due to the lack of access to printing resources caused by the sanctions in 2000. The reprint allowed for the addition of new information, past corrections along with further detail, and drawings. [3]

Modern looting and trafficking continue to pose a serious threat to the preservation and safekeeping of the site and its objects. In 2010, Christie’s New York, a prominent private auction house, withdrew a pair of earrings that were for sale when it was discovered that they were a trafficked part of the archeological finds from Nimrud’s royal tombs. [10]

Reception Edit

The discovery of the tombs originally received substantial coverage, including a full-color spread in Time Magazine, but the attention drifted with the Gulf Wars on the horizon. Additionally, the original reports were largely in Arabic and local to Iraq, which limited Western access to them due to an international embargo. [5] Thus, the queens’ tombs have received limited academic attention.

The Nimrud Tombs are “one of the most important archaeological finds of the second half of the twentieth century,” but the chaos of war and the language barrier has resulted in the tombs often being overlooked and underappreciated in the West. [2]

Overview Edit

The Tombs were built under the residential wing of the Northwest palace by Assurnasirpal II and his son Shalmaneser III prior to the queens’ deaths. [2] As of January 2018, the tombs were the only discovered Neo-Assyrian royal burial complete with burial dress and objects of internment, [9] so the find was crucial for understanding Neo-Assyrian royal burial procedures. [5] Similar vaulted tombs and burial sites for both royals and the public were similarly found beneath residences in Ashur, Til Barsip, and other locations in Nimrud. These other sites also displayed the practice of providing the dead with objects and adornment that reflected wealth and status. [9]

The tombs themselves were made primarily of various types of brick, including mud-brick and baked brick. The tombs were vaulted, and the vaults themselves were made out of baked brick. [2] Stone and marble slabs sealed off the tombs. [3]

The discovery of the Queen’s Tombs and their excavation gives unique and valuable insight into the burial rituals of the royal Neo-Assyrians as well as Neo-Assyrian domestic life, social structure, physical health, and daily life. [3]

The four tombs were filled with personal items, many of which were made from precious materials and came from foreign regions further to the west. Such foreign objects may have been obtained or brought by the queens as “a part of their bridal wealth.” [5] These far-flung artifacts show the extent of the empire’s power and the importance of strategic royal marriages. [3]

The details as to which specific queens were buried where, as well as their names, are somewhat unclear. The limited information on this subject has resulted in many contradictory claims. However, there is some evidence to suggest the names of certain women and the bodies they likely belonged to. Additionally, the site and its inscriptions add dynastic women, previously left out of the historical record.

The women buried in the tombs have been identified to likely be:

  • Mullissu-Mu- kannishat-Ninua, wife of Ashurnasirpal II (r. 883–859 BCE), whose tomb is located in Room 57
  • Yabaʾ, the wife of Tiglath Pileser III (r. 744–727 BCE)
  • Banitu, wife of Shalmaneser V (r. 726–722 BCE)
  • Atalya, wife of Sar- gon II, (r. 721–705 BCE)
  • Hama, the young wife of Shalmaneser IV (r. 782–773 BCE), whose magnificent gold stamp seal was found in Tomb III [5]

It is important to note that the tombs found at Nimrud are commonly referred to as the “Queens’ Tombs,” but it is likely that these royal Assyrian women were not regarded as queens in the way of its modern definition. [2] The Akkadian word for king is šarru, hence the word for queen would be šarratu. Yet, šarratu was only reserved for goddesses, as the Assyrian queens were not equal co-rulers with their spouses. Royal Assyrian women, typically the wives of kings, were instead referred to as sēgallu, or “woman of the palace.” [9] The Neo-Assyrians queens were not chief consorts, instead they had a domestic role in the court as “rulers of the domestic realm.” [2] This distinction is why they were buried under the floors of the bētānu in their palace and not next to the kings in Assur––they ruled the domestic parts of the palace both while alive and in death. [2] While this role differed from the role of the kings, it was nonetheless incredibly important in the court. [2]

Tomb I Edit

Mallowan had labeled the rooms in the Northwest Palace with letters, and Tomb I was found by searching underneath the floor of Room MM, as Mallowan had not previously done so. [3] A vault, made of baked brick, was exposed first. Inside the vault was a cuneiform inscription written on the brick wall. The inscription read “palace of ashurnasirpal King of the World, King of the land of Ashur. Son of tukulti-ninurta [II] King of the World, King of the land of ashur. Son of adad-nirari [II] King of the World, King of the land of ashur.” [3] Ashurnasirpal certainly refers to king Ashurnasirpal II, who constructed the palace, and it is possible that these bricks were reused from an earlier construction. [3] This inscription of Ashurnasirpal II implies that buried within could be one of his wives, but it is also possible that these inscriptions were reused from an earlier construction.

The woman within the sarcophagus was in her early 50s at her time of death and was likely of royal heritage, possibly of a lower rank, or a former queen who outlived her spouse and was no longer carrying out the responsibilities of sēgallu at the time of her death. [9] This theory is supported by the riches with which she was buried, which were plentiful, but paled in comparison to some of the other tombs. The sarcophagus was made of terra-cotta and had a ceramic cover. Mud-brick, baked brick, and marble were used to close the entrance to the tomb. [3] Most of the architectural finds were inside the coffin.

Tomb II Edit

This excavation began in 1989, and it was when the archeological identification and labeling system was switched from letters to numbers. Hussein found another vaulted chamber, Tomb II, near rooms rooms 44, 49, 51, and 59. [3] This chamber, too, was made of baked brick and stone, while the floor was made of marble slabs, and was closed off by two stone slabs that were likely held together by an iron bar. [3]

A bathtub shaped sarcophagus carved from calcite was found in the Northern end of the burial chamber. [3] It contained the remains of two women, both in their early 30s, laid on top of each other who died approximately a generation apart. The top body was affiliated with objects that identified her as Ataliyā, queen of Sargon. A tablet and two gold bowls seemed to identify the other occupant as “queen of Tiglath-Pileser,” but another gold bowl and cosmetics container were inscribed with “Banītu, queen of Shalmaneser.” [9] There are several possible explanations for the two names. The inscriptions were written in Akkadian, and “Banītu is a Akkadian translation of Yabâ, so they could have been one person. The west Semitic names could also signify foreign birth and, thus, an international marriage, which was popular during the Neo-Assyrian reign, or it could be part of a popular naming trend. The non-Assyrian roots of the queen could explain the many foreign objects found in the tomb as they could be dowry items. It is possible, though, that the objects could have been acquired as gifts and tribute. [9]

Tomb III Edit

Below the floor of room 57, Hussein and his team found a slab of limestone covering a third vault, also made of baked brick. [3] Bricks in this tomb were also inscribed with not only the mark of Ashurnasirpal II, but also Shalmaneser III, who may have finished construction of the tomb. [3] The Tomb held a sarcophagus in the main chamber made of grey alabaster, but it was empty except for a bone shard and a single bead. An inscription in the lid identified the chamber as belonging to Mullissu-mukanishat-Ninua, queen of Ashurnasirpal and of Shalmaneser. [9] Three other bronze coffins (Coffins 1-3) were found in the antechamber with various partial skeletons of 12 or more people, which were probably secondary to the main burial in the alabaster coffin. [9] These bronze coffins may have been repurposed bathtubs, and could have been used for these burials due to a series of unexpected deaths or an emergency. [11] Coffin 1 held the skeletons of 1 unidentified royal woman, 3 children, one infant, and a fetus and it held a vast amount of gold and jewelry. A gold seal identified coffin 2 as Hamâ, queen of Shalmaneser. [9] A gold stamp seal pendant that indicated her as such was buried with her and may have initially been placed around her neck. [2] Queen Hama died between the ages of 18 and 20, thus her rule as sēgallu was short-lived. This could explain her burial in one of the bronze coffins rather than a tomb of her own, as her death was likely sudden, leaving no time for a new construction. Hama’s body was wearing a gold crown, one of the most famous finds from the excavation of the Queens' Tombs at Nimrud. [2] Coffin 3 held the remains of 5 adults, 2 males, 2 probable female, and 1 probably male. [3]

The unusual placements of the coffins can be explained in various ways, including: someone moving the body in the main coffin to the ones in the antechamber at some period in antiquity, looting, or other extenuating circumstances. [9] The three coffins in the outer chamber were placed against the doors. This placing prevented the thieves, who robbed the main sarcophagus, from doing the same in the antechamber. [3]

Tomb IV Edit

The corridor between room 72 and room 71 held a baked brick slab, and underneath was the entrance to Tomb IV. [3] The entrance was arched and blocked by bricks. In Tomb IV, archaeologists found a rectangular stone sarcophagus, originally covered by 4 slabs of terracotta. Only a few objects and a couple teeth remained of the unknown deceased. [3] The tomb was robbed in antiquity, and so little remains, but what is still there confirms the burial practices observed in the other tombs. [3]

Northwest Palace Edit

Around 888 B.C.E., Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II began constructing what is widely considered to be the most significant architectural achievement of his 24 year reign: the Northwest Palace at Nimrud. [3] The building then became the Assyrian empire’s main palace, replacing the royal palace at Ashur. [3] While it was mainly used for administrative purposes and general royal protocol, the palace’s historical intrigue primarily stems from its Southern Section, wherein located were the domestic wing and the royal harem. The Southern Section of the Northwest Palace was a residential dwelling for Nimrud’s royal women, the wives and cohorts of Neo-Assyrian kings. [12] Given this, dedicating the Southern Section as the resting place for such royal women is fitting.

The overall architectural aesthetic of the Northwest Palace is regarded as Gesamtkunstwerken and very artistic in nature. [13] There is vast evidence to suggest that the palaces of Nimrud were decorated with intricate wall reliefs, blue Mosul marble, paintings, glazed-brick, strips of ivory, and bronze. [12] [3] The Northwest Palace contained many state apartments, as well as courtyards, spacious suites, and a throne room. [13] The large rooms thought to be royal suites for the king and/or queens were surrounded by the courtyards, and rooms were linked together by long corridors, so it is likely that these features gave the palace a feeling of openness and spaciousness.

Structural techniques Edit

The Northwest Palace and the four tombs were made in part with mud-brick, a brickmaking technique popular in Mesopotamian architecture. [14] The most common Near East building material, mud-brick is made of earth, straw, and water, which is blended into a mixture, shaped, and dried in the sun for up to two weeks. [14] This same mixture is used while wet as a bonding agent between the bricks. [14]

Vaulting was a very common architectural technique in ancient Mesopotamia used to build a strong roof over a room, and vaults were used to build all four queens’ tombs in the Northwest Palace. [15] It is commonly believed that vaulting originated in ancient Greece and Rome, but the Egyptians and Mesopotamians were using mud-brick vaults before Europe. [15] The vaults used in the queens’ tombs were likely designed to protect the sarcophagus from water and structural damage.

Overview Edit

One of the most well-known aspects about the Queen’s Tombs excavation was the discovery of jewelry and other objects of adornment. The finds included hundreds of earrings, neck pieces, and vessels. In addition, there were clothes, headdresses, erotic figurines, beads, amulets, mirrors, hair ornaments, pendants, stamps, fibula, seals, bracelets, armlets, anklets, clothing ornaments and more. Many of the objects were gold, however, others were shaped out of silver, copper, bronze, stone, wood, ivory, ceramic, and crystal. [3]

Some of the jewelry and clothing remained in the positions they would have been worn in at the time of burial. [9] Scholars have analyzed the materials, craftsmanship, design, arrangement, and origins of these objects in order to learn more about Neo-Assyrian culture, relations, social structure, and ways of life.

The jewelry finds help scholars understand the dress and burial attire of Neo-Assyrian queens. According to the findings at the Queen’s Tombs, queenly burial ensemble, “included a headdress a pair of earrings at least one collar, torque, or necklace beads one or more pairs of bracelets sets of up to 10 matching finger rings a pair of anklets one or more fibulas seals with attachment chains and an ornamented garment.” [9] Each queen was buried with a diadem that had a dorsal streamer, so it is likely this object was a sign of a queenhood and identified each woman as such. The differing sizes of the objects meant they were crafted to fit specific people. [9]

To the Neo-Assyrians, tombs were portals to the afterlife. Thus, while the body lay in the tomb, its spirit would travel through the netherworld and face gatekeepers at seven thresholds before standing before a panel of judges. In the myth of Ishtar’s descent, the goddess gives her jewelry and adornment to appease the gatekeepers and judges. Therefore, it is thought that the large amounts of jewelry and other objects of adornment buried with each queen could have been added to pay each queen’s tolls and appease the deities of the afterlife. [9] For example, over 300 earrings were found in Tomb II and III. Additionally, these objects of adornment and associated high status would ensure that the deceased individual could retain that same position in the netherworld. As displayed by documentation of grave robbing anxieties, it was believed that when items were removed from tombs, the social status and privilege of the buried individual in the afterlife was lost. This was mirrored in the Myth of Ishtar, for when she was forced to give away her regalia, she lost her power and identity as a queen. [9]

Tomb I Edit

Tomb one contained a remarkable number of stamps, however, there was no headdress or anklets found in it. This could be evidence of a lower rank, older burial style (9th century BCE), or looting. [9]

Objects: (All item Titles taken directly taken from Hussein's list see Hussein's list for detailed descriptions and findspots.) [3]

  • Seals
  • Chain
  • Fibula
  • Rings and Bracelet
  • Earrings
  • Beads
  • Amulets/Pendants
  • Erotic Figurines
  • Alabastra and Other Small Bottles

Tomb II Edit

Tomb II was the most intact of the tombs with a wealth of objects and jewelry, and this allows for the most complete information on Neo-Assyrian royal burials. [3]

Objects: (All item Titles taken directly taken from Hussein's list see Hussein's list for detailed descriptions and findspots.) [3]

  • Gold Crown
  • Diadem Segments
  • Gold Bowls
  • Eleven Small Golden Vials
  • Rock Crystal Vessels
  • Mirrors
  • Earrings
  • Collars, Torcs, and Necklaces
  • Hair Ornaments
  • Pendants
  • Gold Chains
  • Bracelets/Armlets
  • Rings
  • Anklets
  • Clothing Ornaments
  • Other Gold Objects
  • Silver Objects
  • Copper/Bronze Objects
  • Stone Objects
  • Ivory, Bone and Wood Objects
  • Ceramic Items

Tomb III Edit

The main tomb was heavily robbed until only a bone shard and a few beads remained. [9] Coffin 1 contained a large quantity of mostly gold jewelry. [9] The second bronze coffin contained some of the most exceptional and renowned finds of the tombs. The petite female in the tomb wore a large cap-like crown decorated with pomegranates and winged genies. She was identified with a stamp to be queen Hama. [2]

Objects: (All item Titles taken directly taken from Hussein's list see Hussein's list for detailed descriptions and findspots.) [3]

  • Coffin 1
    • Earrings
    • Bracelets/Anklets
    • Rings
    • Miscellaneous Stone Objects
    • Gold Vessels
    • Jewellery
    • Earrings
    • Torcs and Necklaces
    • Gold Fibula
    • Bracelets/Armlets and Anklets
    • Rings
    • Clothing Ornaments
    • Objects of Stone, Pottery, and Wood
    • Coffin 3
      • Earrings/Rings
      • Pendants and Necklaces/Beads
      • Fibula
      • Bracelet
      • Copper/Bronze Objects
      • Stone Objects
      • Glass/Faience
      • Ivory, Wood, and Shell Objects
      • Pottery

      Because of the gold stamp seal pendant, most likely worn around her neck and the famed crown atop her head, scholars identified Queen Hama, wife of Shalmaneser IV, daughter-in- law of Adad-nirari III as the sole and primary burial in Tomb III, coffin 2. [2] This is furthered by the gold and precious jewelry befitting a queen that was interred with her, and was similar to other royal burials in Tombs I and II. [2] Hama was young at her time of death, thus there may have been little time for preparation, possibly explaining the unusual location of her burial. [2]

      Hama’s crown has become a recognizable symbol of the Queen's Tombs at Nimrud. This gold and lapis lazuli crown’s cap-like shape and configuration has no known historical parallels, and it is distinctively different from the queenly dorsal diadems seen in the other tombs, imagery, and on Hama’s stamp seal. [9] Its broad diameter, 24 cm, suggest that the crown could have been worn over a diadem with a dorsal streamer or elaborate hairstyle/underpinnings. [9] Because of the iconography on the crown––gold leaves, flowers, grapes, and female winged genies––scholars have placed its origin in western Syria or eastern Cilicia. However, scholars have theorized that the crown’s imagery closely resembles the iconography of the dress and adornment of a Neo-Assyrian queen, suggesting the crown originated in Assyria. [2]

      The stamp seal that identifies Queen Hama with its inscription šá míḫa-ma-a munuS.é.GaL šá mšul-man- maš man kur aš kal!-lat mu-érin.daḫ, translating to “Belonging to Hama, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Adad-nerari.” [16] Spurrier describes the stamp seal as “depict[ing] a female worshipper, most likely the queen herself, standing piously before a seated goddess.” [2] The goddess sits on a throne next to an animal and in front of an enlarged scorpion. The animal was originally interpreted as a dog, and then reinterpreted as a lion. This change would reidentify the goddess not as previously believed Gula, but as the prominent Neo-Assyrian goddess who married the god Ashur, Mullissu. [2] Three more stamp seals and two cylinder seals were also found with Queen Hama. [9]

      Tomb IV Edit

      Tomb IV was extensively robbed, so only a few objects, dress pieces, and jewelry remained. Because of this, the tomb cannot be used to directly identify Neo-Assyrian burial practices. However, the surviving elements mirrored the other queenly tombs. [9]

      Objects: (All item Titles taken directly taken from Hussein's list see Hussein's list for detailed descriptions and findspots.) [3]

      • Silver Bowls
      • Stamp Seals
      • Jewelry
      • Mirror
      • Ceramic Items
      • Textile

      On April 11, 2015, ISIL released a graphic video of the purposeful demolition of art, sculpture, carvings, and architecture at the ancient historical site of Nimrud using hand tools, power tools, and explosives. [17] Video analyses reveal that the destruction took place over multiple different events. Images show the pile of destroyed Neo-Assyrian relief panels could have existed as early as March 7, 2015. The detonation of the Northwest Palace did not occur until after April 1, 2015. Satellite imagery confirms the destruction and leveling of this ancient palace. [17] UNESCO described the destruction of Nimrud as a “war crime.” [18] The damage and destruction of history is the purposeful erasure of Iraqi cultural heritage. ISIL condemned Nimrud for its pre-Islamic, idolatrous imagery and architecture, and has destroyed other Iraqi and Syrian historical sites. [19]

      Since the catastrophic bombing of Nimrud in 2015, the survival of the excavated Queen’s Tombs is not confirmed. [9]

      Michael Rakowitz Makes a Life Out of Fragments

      CLINTON, NY — One of the challenges of talking coherently about Michael Rakowitz’s exhibition at the Wellin Museum is coming to an understanding of what the work is: Is it a memorial to lost cultural heritage, an act of historical recovery, a collective bereavement, or a model for survival? Perhaps this essay is my attempt at answering this question.

      Another challenge is wanting to see the work made whole. Here, I’m thinking of a legal definition of this term. To paraphrase the Law.com website: To be made whole is to have the party who has been damaged be awarded, or paid enough, to return to the position they would’ve been in without the other’s destructive acts. My difficulty is that this doesn’t happen here. But I want it to. What Rakowitz has installed at the Wellin is only a partial reconstruction of what is known as “Room H” located in the Northwest Palace of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud (now Kalhu).

      The sprawling palace was originally constructed by the ruler Ashurnasirpal II between 879 and 860 BCE and once featured 600 seven-foot-tall reliefs carved in stone depicting the king, members of his retinue, winged male figures (that may be some form of divinity), and an inscription detailing the Ashurnasirpal’s many achievements. But in the intervening millennia, in a process of slow, insidious attrition begun with the British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1845, eventually 400 of the palace’s original 600 relief panels were stolen away. Many of them ended up in institutions in the West. One of them might be close to you. They are to be found at the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg the Bristol Museum the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Brooklyn Museum (which holds three panels), and elsewhere. Rakowitz acknowledges all of this, showing empty wall space where the reliefs should be, with explanatory captions above the aporia. “Room H” is like seeing a once-legendary champion at a press conference where he smiles an earnest, open grin that shows most of his teeth missing.

      In crucial ways this is the opposite of the US American ideal: There is no hiding or pretense, no fake-it-til-you-make-it ethos. The exhibition takes on its immanent emptiness, its lack, and acknowledges that the Iraqi culture that birthed these irreplaceable objects will never be whole but has made, and will continue to have to make, a life out of the fragments of their heritage. Understanding this, Rakowitz doesn’t even call the work reconstructions, but rather “reappearances.”

      But next to the gaps are startlingly beautiful resuscitations of the reliefs in glorious reams of color that come from the wrappings of food items that originate in Iraq. The artist and his team of studio workers (he’s very careful to define this as a collaborative project) have created the faux reliefs with papier-mâché and cardboard that use the food packaging to form astonishingly vivid mosaics that give fine detail to clothing, jewelry, beards and hair, and skin tone. Crucially, these are all comprised of everyday materials that almost anyone could procure — affirming that this act of historical recovery may be made by not only art school elite or well-researched historians, but anyone who sees themselves in these reliefs and dedicates themselves to the task. In working on this project for 14 years, Rakowitz and his studio workers have resuscitated 900 missing or stolen pieces.

      The history of this loss is rooted in power, and power is most profoundly expressed in taking what is not yours. What is known as the “standard inscription” that Ashurnasirpal II incised as captions for the reliefs is replicated here. From the translation I learn that he erected his kingdom on the blood and bones of those he conquered. After Ashurnasirpal II died, subsequent Assyrian kings appropriated the existing architecture to erect peans to their own political authority. Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, as the West developed the dominant military and colonialist powers in the world, these nations simultaneously concocted a self-absolving paternalism through which they convinced themselves and others that they could be better caretakers of heritage that was not theirs. Power serves power.

      Rakowitz uses a historical timeline and wall text to point out that the theft of Iraqi heritage took a dramatic turn in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq and voided the nation of its normative controls. Rampant looting took place. The Iraqi Museum lost 15,000 items and only about 7,000 have since been recovered. Then, a more shockingly brutal loss of the reliefs in the Nimrud Palace took place in the fall of 2015 when ISIL, the Islamic State movement, blew up and sledgehammered the remaining Nimrud reliefs (and filmed this destruction) to assert their own power and generate rare patrimony for sale on the black market. Rakowitz understands that this means, as he says in the video that accompanies the show, “Iraqis had to look at their culture in fragments.”

      After having recently experienced a profound loss with the death of my mother, I have found that mourning can be a passive action, the curling of the body into itself to narrow the scope of grief. Grief can also be an opening outward, a conscious taking up the responsibility to rebuild, not replace, but remember and revitalize. This is recipe for living and thriving despite centuries of plunder. I’m reminded of a recent tweet claiming that disco balls are hundreds of shards of broken glass assembled to make an orb of magical light. This is the work of making a life by those who feel they are broken by their circumstances: the collaboration with others, the collecting of what can be salvaged, and the patient assemblage of the shards of our past to make a thing that turns our mourning into song.

      Michael Rakowitz: Nimrud continues through June 18 at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College (198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY). The exhibition was curated by Katherine Alcauskas.

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      "Assyrian Reliefs is certain to find a place on the shelves of many libraries and even personal collections. Though we cannot all have first-hand access to Assyrian art, Assyrian Reliefs offers the next best thing--high quality images accompanied by thought-provoking interpretations."-- "CAA Reviews"

      "This volume will reward the careful reader with a lively ongoing debate about the significance and meaning of the figures and motifs featured in these more "static" Assyrian reliefs. The New England reliefs, and the repeated sacred figures in general, have heretofore been neglected in favor of those illustrating active narratives such as hunts and warfare, and this volume helps to remedy this omission. The general reader will be rewarded with an interesting and up-to-date account of how Assyrian motifs have figured in the visual, historical, and religious life of the United States, from New England all the way to the Los Angeles malls."-- "American Journal of Archaeology"

      Assyrian Reliefs is certain to find a place on the shelves of many libraries and even personal collections. Though we cannot all have first-hand access to Assyrian art, Assyrian Reliefs offers the next best thing high quality images accompanied by thought-provoking interpretations. CAA Reviews"

      This volume will reward the careful reader with a lively ongoing debate about the significance and meaning of the figures and motifs featured in these more static Assyrian reliefs. The New England reliefs, and the repeated sacred figures in general, have heretofore been neglected in favor of those illustrating active narratives such as hunts and warfare, and this volume helps to remedy this omission. The general reader will be rewarded with an interesting and up-to-date account of how Assyrian motifs have figured in the visual, historical, and religious life of the United States, from New England all the way to the Los Angeles malls. American Journal of Archaeology"

      Digital Reconstruction of the Northwest Palace, Nimrud, Assyria - History

      The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. (AINA) -- The Royal Tombs of Nimrud were first discovered in April of 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The Tomb was located in the North-West Palace of the Ancient city of Kalkhu (modern city of Nimrud). The city of Kalkhu was a capital of the Assyrian Empire for over 150 years until King Sargon moved the capital to Dur-Sharukin (modern Khorshabad) in 717 B.C. The city is located 4 miles south-west of the Christian monastery of Mar Behnam. The first dig of this ancient site was conducted by a British mission over 150 years ago, which uncovered many reliefs. Many Ancient Assyrian Tombs have been found in the past, however the goods had all been plundered and stolen. Two remaining tombs exist one in Berlin and one in its original location in the city of Ashur. The sarcophagus in the tomb chamber contained hundreds of items including jewelry, vessels, ornaments, seals and other goods. The items displayed Syrian and Phoenician iconography in addition to central Assyrian Art. The treasures Belonged to:

      • Yaba, Queen of Tiglathpileser III, king of Assyria 744-727
      • Banitu, Queen of Shalmanasser V, king of Assyria 726-722
      • Atalia, Queen of Sargon II, king of Assyria 721-705

      Yesterday ISIS destroyed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, a city dating back to 1400 B.C. and was one of the capitals of Assyria. A week before that ISIS destroyed the Museum of Mosul, which contained priceless Assyrian artifacts.

      The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which was destroyed by ISIS on March 5.

      Your browser does not support the video tag. Digital reconstruction of Nimrud.

      The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage. The treasures excavated from Nimrud in 1989 by an expedition of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage.


      The Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II.

      The Northwest Palace is located on the Citadel in the southwest of the city. It was built by Assurnasirpal II south of the Ninurta temple. It was excavated by Sir Austen Henry Layard , Sir MEL Mallowan , Janusz Meuszyński and the Iraqi Antiquities Service.

      The building has never been fully explored as the western part has eroded over time. The minimum dimensions resulting from the excavated area are approx. 200 m (NS) × 120 m. The location of the main entrance is unclear it could have been either in the north or in the east of the complex, from where it led to the large inner courtyard in the north of the building complex. Another courtyard was possibly upstream (cf. Kertai 2015, fig. 3 - 4). In the north, several commercial and administrative rooms were connected to the large courtyard. In the south it was bordered by the facade of the throne room. This was broken through by three entrances, each of which was flanked by the large orthostats, some in flat relief and some sculptured, which represented apotropaic door-guard figures, so-called lamassu . A pair of these figures is exhibited today together with some of the reliefs from Kalḫu in the British Museum in London, further specimens are in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin and in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The throne room had a size of 45.5 × 10.5 m and was decorated with relief orthostats that showed war, hunting and cult scenes. The throne pedestal was on the east wall. To the south, an inner courtyard was attached to the throne room, which was surrounded by groups of rooms, the largest of which can be interpreted as a royal chamber. These rooms were also decorated with stone reliefs. The actual residential wing of the palace stretched further south. In this area there were graves of Neo-Assyrian queens from the 9th and 8th centuries BC. To days.

      A few inscriptions give information about the construction of the palace: The oldest dates from around the year 879 BC. Chr., It contains the description of door fixings and furnishings. Another inscription dated around 866 BC. Dated, lists different types of wood that were processed in different rooms and describes the door guard figures at the main entrances as "animals of the mountains and seas" (u2-ma-am KUR.MEŠ and A.AB.BA.MEŠ) . A stele that was found on the facade of the throne room provides information about the inauguration ceremonies and mentions various construction details (glazed tiles and wall paintings).

      Under Shalmaneser III. Repairs and minor alterations were made to the palace, and later rulers also took care of maintenance. Sargon II. Is documented as the last builder. During his reign, the Assyrian capital was moved from Kalḫu to Dūr-Šarrukīn , the northwest palace in Kalḫu was then partly used as the residence of the royal family and partly as a warehouse for war booty and tribute payments.

      In the rooms north of the large front courtyard, about 400 clay tablets from the reign of the kings Tiglat-Pileser III. , Shalmaneser V and Sargon II found. This palace archive consisted of administrative documents and royal correspondence. There were also some legal documents from the late 7th century BC. BC, which were burned by the fire in the course of the destruction of the city.

      The residence of Assurnasirpal II represented a novelty in the Assyrian palace architecture, which was to become the archetype of the Neo-Assyrian palace. It is a division into a public and private area, which were separated from each other by the throne room. Another important innovation are the stone relief panels that were attached to the inner walls of the most important rooms. Their iconography and subject matter became a model for the later rulers. Through various legal and illegal excavations as well as divisions, the reliefs were distributed to various collections around the world. The reconstruction of its original location was therefore a difficult undertaking, but it is now considered complete.

      Burnt Palace

      The "Burnt Palace" is located west of the Nabû Temple and south of the "Governor's Palace". The main street leading to Gate E of the Acropolis probably ran between the two palaces. Since the building has not yet been fully developed, the size of the architectural remains can only be determined on the already excavated area: According to this, the palace was at least 90 m long and 30 m wide.

      Originally in the 9th century BC. Built on older foundations, it was rebuilt twice over the years, probably under Adad-nērārī III. and Sargon II. Economic texts from the time of Asarhaddon or Assurbanipal attest to the continuity of use up to the 7th century BC. Chr.

      When the palace finally burned down, on which its current name is based, new traces of settlement followed a short time later. The last remains of use from this area date back to the Hellenistic period.

      The whole building consists of two units, each grouped around a courtyard. From the smaller, northern courtyard N, the larger main courtyard can be reached via three through rooms. A painted living room was attached to its south side. Numerous valuable objects made of ivory and glass vessels came to light within and around the room. The seals and parts of Sargon's royal correspondence also found there allow the assumption that administrative tasks were carried out there and that the palace even served as a royal seat for a time.

      Fort Shalmaneser (military palace)

      Shalmaneser III (858–824 BC) built a new royal palace in the south-east corner of the city, which rose south of the Erbil Gate on an approximately 13 m high terrace over the surrounding area. This heavily fortified complex, known as Fort Shalmaneser, extended over an area of ​​250 × 350 m and was one of the largest ancient oriental structures. In the west and north it was surrounded by an open area of ​​200 × 450 m, which does not show any traces of buildings or archaeological finds. The area seems to have been a large parade ground or parade ground. In the north and west, the area is bounded by large elevations, under which other buildings can be assumed.

      The palace complex was divided into several areas, in the north was the entrance area and in the south the representative wing with the throne room and other royal rooms (treasury, living area with reception rooms).

      The entrance area was formed by three forecourts, which were surrounded by stores and residential apartments. Their considerable dimensions indicate that they were designed for intensive traffic. The approx. 100 × 80 m large main courtyard was also suitable for large gatherings. A lettered throne base on its west side is an indication that mustering of troops in the presence of the king took place here. Documents from the archives of the palace superintendent ( rab ekalli ) were discovered in the rooms on the west corner of the courtyard .

      On the south side of the main courtyard was the throne room with the associated rooms. On its eastern narrow wall was the throne base made of two large stone blocks, which was decorated with tribute scenes on the sides and depictions of the meeting of Shalmaneser with the Babylonian king on the front. On the terrace behind the throne room was a second large ceremonial group of rooms. To the west of the throne room, the queen's apartments were uncovered, which could be identified as precisely these from an administrative archive.

      In contrast to the north-west palace of the Assurnasirpal, the complex was not decorated with stone orthostats in relief, but with figural and ornamental wall paintings. In addition, remains of glaze decorations were found on the walls.

      Fort Shalmaneser was later by Adad-nērārī III. (811–783 BC), Tiglath Pileser III. (744–727 BC) and Sargon II (721–705 BC) were renewed. The largest renovation was carried out by Asarhaddon (680–669 BC), who used the palace as a military palace ( ekal mašārti ). The complex was built towards the end of the 7th century BC. Destroyed twice, what happened with the Medico-Babylonian campaigns against Assyria in the years 614 and 612 BC. Is associated.

      Ninurta Temple and Ziqqurrat

      The Ninurta Temple and the probably associated Ziqqurrat are located on the citadel north of the Northwest Palace. The temple consisted of a wide vorcella, measuring 6 × 13.60 m and a long cella measuring 7 × 20 m, as well as several utility rooms. Mallowan also assumes that a minor sanctuary existed in the space adjacent to the Vorcella to the north. Layard found a stele of Assurnasirpal II and a round sacrificial table with three lion's feet in it.

      The door of the Vorcella was lined with two human-headed, winged gate lions that were about 4.5 m long and 5 m high. The forecella itself was decorated with wall paintings and the interior of the cella with glazed bricks.

      The discovery of a stone slab in the cella, which, in addition to the dedication to the god Ninurta, was also inscribed with a report on the reign of Assurnasirpal, proves that the temple was dedicated to this god, the city god Kalḫus. In the corridor behind the main cella a container with numerous pearls and over twenty cylinder seals was found.

      Connected to the temple, the ziqqurrat rose with a square base area of ​​60 m on a side. The original height of the temple tower was based on Layard

      60 m estimated. Archaeologically, however, it has only been poorly developed, which is why little is known about its precise connection with the temple building. The stairway to the Ziqqurrat has also not been reliably reconstructed to this day. It stood on a terrace made of adobe bricks, the foundation made of stone blocks.

      It is believed that the entire temple complex, along with other buildings on the Acropolis, was destroyed towards the end of the Neo-Assyrian Period (either 614 or 612 BC).

      Nabû temple

      The Nabû temple is located in the southeast of the citadel / acropolis of Nimrud . It is a large, trapezoidal complex with a side length of about 70 m, which includes both cult rooms and areas for various other functions.

      In his inscriptions, Assurnasirpal II (883–859 BC) calls himself the founder, but the excavated structure was made by Adad-nērārī III. (810–783 BC) erected. Standing on a high terrace, it could be reached via a ramp in the north. This led to a forecourt from which the main courtyard could be entered. On the west side of the main courtyard was the main sanctuary, which consisted of two parallel Assyrian long- space temples NS 4 and NS 5 for Nabû and Tašmētu. An anteroom each led into the large and elongated cella, from which the elevated Adyton could be reached, whereby the temple for Tašmētu was somewhat narrower than that for Nabû. Around the main courtyard were a library, administration and utility rooms.

      A small side courtyard with an adjoining throne room could be reached from the forecourt. The ruler was accommodated here when he was present in the temple for cult activities. There were two cult rooms next to each other in the same courtyard. This small complex is associated with celebrations during the New Year ( Akītu ) festival .

      The finds in the complex include numerous clay tablets of religious, historical, literary and economic content, ivory and bronze fragments and some large statues that were interpreted as an exhibition in the passageways of the courtyards. On two statues flanking the entrance to the Nabû cult room, there were dedicatory inscriptions by the governor of Kalḫu, Bēl-tarṣi-iluma, for the life of King Adad-nērāri III. and his mother Šammuramât .

      Watch the video: Virtual Assyrian Palace part 1 (May 2022).


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