Author: Osama S. M. Amin

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!

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.

Ashurnasirpal

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.

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.

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.

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.