Photos

Siege of Lachish Reliefs at the British Museum

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

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

Assyria

By 701 BCE the Assyrian kings, based in Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), built their enormous empire. It stretched from modern-day Iran to Egypt and covered most of the modern-day Middle East. The Assyrian Empire was the largest land empire yet created, the product of the prodigious Assyrian war-machine. The Assyrian heartland on the Tigris River was an ideal agricultural and trade area, but it was a bare one, with no natural boundaries or defences. Thus, the Assyrian rulers built a great army to police their frontiers, expand their territories, and keep potential enemies at bay.

Lachish

Lachish (modern-day Tell ed-Duweir, Israel), lies about 800 kilometres south-west of the Assyrian heartland, but only 40 kilometres south-west of Jerusalem. It was a critical point, linking Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and the immense wealth of Egypt. By 701 BCE, Lachish was a heavily fortified city, located on a hill. It was the 2nd city, after Jerusalem (within the Kingdom of Judah), which had just managed to stay independent of the Assyrians. At the end of the 8th century BCE, King Hezekiah of Judah made a fatal mistake; he rebelled, supported by the Egyptians, against Sennacherib and declined to pay tribute.

Victors and Vanquished

“And the Lord was with him: and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not” (2 Kings 18:7).

“Him” refers to Hezekiah, King of Judah. This is what is written in Book of the Kings, but the Bible understandably glosses over the disagreeable fact that the ruler of the great Assyrian Empire, Sennacherib, the terror of the Middle East, responded aggressively, without showing any mercy. Sennacherib mobilised his massive, professional, well-trained, and well-equipped imperial army and seized several Judaean cities. He destroyed Lachish and crushed Hezekiah by executing his soldiers and officials and sending his people into exile. Hezekiah finally paid the tribute and was subjugated. It should be noted that the military forces of Lachish were composed mostly of local militias and mercenaries and therefore was very insignificant when compared with the Assyrian army.  In addition, the Lachish’s infantry of spearmen and archers were much less organised.

“Because Hezekiah, King of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power, I took 46 of his strong-fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places, I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude.”

This is an Assyrian account of the aftermath of this rebellion in the British Museum and its gives us Sennacherib’s view of what happened allegedly in his own words.

The Siege of Lachish Reliefs

Sennacherib recorded this victorious military campaign in a series of wall reliefs, which decorated Room XXXVI of his South-West Palace at Nineveh. These reliefs were probably painted,  but even without any colours, they are astonishing historical documents, just like a film in stone. The reliefs were about 2.5 meters in height and would have run in a continuous frieze, almost from the floor to the ceiling within that room. Neglected for 2500 years, today these wall reliefs are now housed in Room 10b of the British Museum.

Despite being out of context in the British Museum, they undoubtedly make a lasting impression on the visitors today as they did in the past. The British Museum says that these gypsum wall reliefs were excavated at the city of Nineveh (ancient Kouyunjik), Northern Iraq, by Sir Austen Henry Layard, John George Taylor, Sir Henry Rawlinson, Hormuzd Rassam, and William Loftus. The reliefs reached the British Museum in 1856. The reliefs decorated Room XXXVI, within the central area of the palace. This may indicate that this military triumph meant a lot to Sennacherib. The South-West Palace (and thus the reliefs) was discovered between 1845-1847 by Austen Henry Layard.

The reliefs talk about the military siege and capture of the Judaean city of Lachish. The Assyrians at first reached the area and established a base camp for its army. They then laid a siege around the city for weeks. Meanwhile, the Assyrians gradually built artificial mud-brick ramps in order to transfer their war-machines and warriors to the city gate and walls. Then, the fighting begins and the Assyrian siege engines ascended up the ramps, followed by artillery containing archers, slingers, and spearmen and the rest of soldiers.

The Lachish defence forces, positioned on city wall’s towers, desperately tried to dampen this attack; they threw arrows, stones and rocks, and fire torches on the Assyrian army. The attacking wave was overwhelming, well-prepared, and did not stop. The defenders started to collapse rapidly, and the inhabitants of the city fled the city through its gate, heading to the Assyrians, bringing their personal belongings, food, water, and whatever they could hold. The Lachish military forces were taken prisoners of war. The city was destroyed and looted by the Assyrian army; booty was brought to the outside of the city. The inhabitants of the city were gathered together and were deported into exile. The heads of the rebellion and many of the prisoners were executed.

Sennacherib sat on his magnificent chair on a low mound (in front of his royal tent), greeted by his commander-in-chief, and surrounded by his bodyguards. His soldiers brought the prisoners before him; some of the prisoners prostrated, kneeled, and asked for mercy. Some of the prisoners were beheaded while others were brutally impaled or de-skinned. There are 2 Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions above the figure of the king; one talks about the prisoners and the city (left) and the other one about the royal tent (right).

Hezekiah’s decision to not pay tribute and rebel against Assyrians resulted in devastating consequences. Lachish was destroyed and its Jewish inhabitants were exiled. Sennacherib besieged Hezekiah within Jerusalem “like a bird in a cage”, he states in his annals of Sennacherib. Ironically, Hezekiah did pay the tribute at the end.

The population demographics of the Middle East had changed since then. The reliefs might be the very first evidence of mass deportation, as a policy to protect against future rebellions and uprisings. I’m not an archaeologist, but I have read several books and articles about the siege of Lachish and its reliefs. All of these resources talk about the history of the area, Assyrians, Judaeans, the palace of Sennacherib and its marvellously carved reliefs,…etc. But, no one cared about the victims of this “wonderful story”, the people and inhabitants of Lachish.

The inhabitants of Lachish were deported to other areas within the Assyrian Empire. Where did they go and with whom did they live? Language barriers, religious differences and cultural conflicts had to be adjusted in order to live peacefully. For how long did they live in their exile and for how many generations? Are their descendants part of the Jewish population of Iraq, my country? I think Lachish’s people are braver than Hezekiah and Sennacherib.

Unfortunately, drafting this article reminded me of today’s issues. One-third of Iraq was attacked and occupied by ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The affected Iraqi Governorates and their people faced the same scenario as Lachish; destruction, looting, brutal methods of execution, and mass deportation.

Now, I leave you with the reliefs.

The finale scene! The Assyrian King Sennacherib sits on his luxurious chair. His commander-in-chief stands before the King (in a very close proximity) and greets him after conquering the city of Lachish. Four high "soldiers" stand behind their leader; they wear their exquisite military uniform and carry their weapons. Prisoners from Lachish are being reviewed and presented to the King. One prostrates, another two kneel; they seem to ask for mercy to save their lives. Most likely, they were beheaded later on. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The Assyrian king Sennacherib sits on his luxurious chair on a low mound. There is a tent behind him. His commander-in-chief stands before him (in a very close proximity) and greets him after conquering the city of Lachish. Assyrian soldiers (the king’s bodyguards) wear their exquisite military uniform and carry their weapons. Prisoners from Lachish are being reviewed and presented to the king. One prostrates and another two kneel; they seem to ask for mercy. Most likely, they were later beheaded. The king obviously had been watching the battle and its victorious aftermath. Neo-Assyrian Period, 700-692 BCE. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), panels 11-13, Room XXXVI of the southwest palace; the heartland of the Assyrian Empire.The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This panel shows the Assyrian base camp, from which the siege was conducted. It is fortified, with a road through the middle. Servants are work in tents, and 2 priests are performing a ceremony in front of the chariots on which are mounted the standards of the gods. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This panel shows the Assyrian base camp from which the siege was conducted. It is fortified with a road running through the middle. Servants are working in tents, and two priests are performing a ceremony in front of the chariots on which are mounted the standards of the gods. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 14-16. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the attack on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel which shows that Assyrian solders (part of a large-range artillery, not shown here) are slinging small rounded stones (so-called slingers), aiming at the enemy soldiers, defending the city walls towers. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the attack on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel, which shows the Assyrian soldiers slinging small rounded stones (so-called “slingers”) at the enemy soldiers defending the city’s towers. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the attack on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel which shows that Assyrian archers (part of a large-range artillery, not shown here) are shooting swift arrows with their large bows, aiming at the enemy soldiers, defending the city walls' towers. The archers stand before siege engines (not shown here). From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the assault on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel, which shows Assyrian archers shooting arrows with their large bows. The archers stand behind siege engines (not shown here). From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the attack on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel which shows Assyrian soldiers in action, holding their long spears and rounded shields. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The beginning of the attack on Lachish in 701 BCE. This is a detail of a large stone wall panel which shows Assyrian soldiers in action, holding their long spears and rounded shields. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 5-6. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is the main documentation of the battle field. Lachish was a heavily fortified city, lying on a steeply hill. The Assyrians had to built several ramps in order to transport their military equipment high up the hill to reach the city walls and gate. The city gate was situated at the southern side of the hill, which was much steeper than its northern counterpart. Siege engines and soldiers are ascending up and are attacking the city. The defenders (soldiers on city towers) are trying desperately to shoot arrows, stones, and water on the Assyrians. The Assyrians were very well equipped ruthless warriors. They overwhelmed Lachish, fought merciless and remorselessly. After few weeks of the siege, the city was sacked and Assyrian conquered the city after a blood bath. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is the main documentation of the battle field. Lachish was a heavily fortified city, lying on a steep hill. The Assyrians had to build several ramps in order to transport their military equipment high up the hill in order to reach the city walls and gate. The city gate was situated at the southern side of the hill, which was much steeper than its northern counterpart. Siege engines and soldiers are ascending and attacking the city. The defenders (soldiers on city towers) are trying desperately to shoot arrows, throw stones and rocks, and pour water on the Assyrians. The Assyrians were well-equipped ruthless warriors. After few weeks of the siege, the city was sacked, and the Assyrians conquered the city. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The Assyrian army is crushing the enemy and has reached the city wall. The soldiers of Lachish are still within their protective towers. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Here, the Assyrian army is crushing the enemy and has reached the city wall. The soldiers of Lachish are still within their protective towers. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Assyrian slingers and archers are ascending up, on the artificial ramp, to the city walls. They are being led and protected by a spearman who holds a large rounded shield.

Assyrian slingers and archers ascend up the artificial ramp to the city walls. They are being led and protected by a spear man, who holds a large rounded shield. Note their highly professional military uniform, shoes, and helmets. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An Assyrian siege engine ascends up the ramp; this is a wheeled vehicle with a platform for archers to which a battering ram can be attached at the front for breaking through gates or walls. One Lachish's towers appears on the right side. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An Assyrian siege engine ascends up the ramp. This is a wheeled vehicle with a platform for archers — a battering ram can be attached at the front for breaking through gates or walls. The engine is being attacked by stones, rocks, and fiery torches. One of the Lachish’s towers appears on the right side of this photograph. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is one of the very dynamic and live scenes which was conveyed to us by the reporter (artist). The battering ram of the siege engine is being attacked by fire torches, which were thrown by the soldiers of Lachish. One of the Assyrian soldiers, within the engine, is ready and seems to anticipate this attack. He is pouring water on the engine in order to catch fire. The front side of the engine is hitting falling stones, but it seems that the engine is immune to this attack. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is a dynamic scene. The battering ram of the siege engine is being attacked by fire torches, which were thrown by the soldiers of Lachish. One of the Assyrian soldiers, within the engine, is ready and seems to anticipate this attack. He is pouring water on the engine in order to prevent it from catching fire. Despite all the damage, it seems that the engine is immune to this attack. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The defenders, Jewish soldiers, posisioned on one of the city wall's towers, trying to ward off the Assyrians. A solider is throwing an arrow while his companions are throwing stones. The surrounding environment had been bombarded with Assyrian fire torches. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The defenders — Hebrew soldiers — are positioned on one of the city wall’s towers, trying to ward off the Assyrians. A solider is throwing an arrow, while his companions are throwing stones and rocks. The surrounding environment is bombarded with fire torches and stones. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Early in the battle, some of the soldiers of Lachish were captured by the Assyrian army. This detail of the stone panel depicts an impalement process; three prisoners of war are being impaled by Assyrian soldiers. Impalement is not an ordinary method of execution; it is a very brutal and ruthless way that was used in wartime to suppress rebellions. Those prisoners of war were impaled in front of the city of Lachish to terrorize them. The death is very painful is typically slow; many hours are needed to kill the victim. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Early in the battle, some of the soldiers of Lachish were captured by the Assyrian army. This detail of the stone panel depicts the impalement process: Three prisoners of war are being impaled by Assyrian soldiers. Impalement is not an ordinary method of execution; rather it is a very brutal and ruthless approach that was used in wartime to suppress rebellions. Prisoners of war were impaled in front of the city of Lachish to terrorize the city’s inhabitants. Note that the victims appear to handcuffed and naked. Death in this fashion is very painful and typically slow as many hours are required before the victim dies. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The Lachish defense forces had started to collapse. The city gate has been opened and the city's people are fleeing Lachish, holding belongings, whatever they could bring with them. This detail shows women and one man; they are walking down the hill and have reached the Assyrian artificial ramp. It seems that the Assyrian army let them go, without killing them on the spot. The surrounding battle field is like hell; the Assyrian continue to progress successffully while the defenders of Lachish are desperately resisting the overwhelming invasion. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Lachish’s defense forces have started to collapse here. Lachish’s gate has been opened, and the city’s inhabitants are fleeing Lachish, holding their personal belongings or whatever they could bring with them. This detail shows women and two men. It appears that they are walking down the hill and have reached the Assyrian artificial ramp. It seems that the Assyrian army lets them go without killing them on the spot. The surrounding battle field is hellish. The Assyrians continue to progress successfully while the defenders of Lachish are desperately resisting the invasion. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the Ssouthwest palace, panel 7. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Finally, Lachish has fallen. The city will be damaged and ransacked. Head of the rebellion will be executed on the spot while ordinary soldiers and people will be deported into exile within the Assyrian Empire. This detail of the stone wall panel shows Assyrian soldiers are flaying two naked prisoners from Lachish. On the left, Lachish's people are being deported. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 9-10. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Finally, Lachish has collapsed and its defense forces are crushed. The city will be damaged and ransacked. The leaders of the rebellion will be executed on the spot, while ordinary soldiers and people will be deported into exile within the Assyrian Empire. This detail of the stone wall panel shows that Assyrian soldiers are flaying two naked prisoners from Lachish. Meanwhile, on the left, Lachish’s people are deported while observing the torture. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 9-10. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An Assyrian soldier watches a deported family form Lachish. A man holds a large box on his shoulders. A young woman guides a 2-wheeled cart pulled by a bullock while another women holds a boy and a girl. The family tried to bring with them as much as they could of their household belonginngs. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 8-9. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An Assyrian soldier guides a deported family from Lachish. A man holds a large box on his shoulders. A young woman guides a two-wheeled cart pulled by a bull, while a woman holds a boy and a girl. Note how the family tried to bring as much as they could from their household. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 8-9. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Another Judaean family; note their personal belongings. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 8-9. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Another exiled Judaean family; note their personal belongings and the young kids. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 8-9. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

A exiled Judaean family from Lachish carrying their belongings on a camel. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 9-10. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

An exiled Judaean family from Lachish is carrying their belongings on a camel in this scene. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 9-10. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

At the end of the battle and capture of Lachish, the victorious Assyrian King Sennacherib sits on a magnificent throne. He greets his commander-in-chief, who stands before him. The King's bodyguards are stationed around the King. Two attendants stands behind Sennacherib, waving fly-whisks so that nothing, not even little creatures buzzing around in the air, should disturb the Kings' tranquility. There is a Royal tent behind the king. At the upper part of the panel we can recognize fig and vine trees. The cunieform inscriptions on the left read "Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria sat on a throne and the booty of Lachish passed before him ".

At the end of the battle and capture of Lachish, the victorious Sennacherib sits on a magnificent throne. He greets his commander-in-chief, who stands before him. The king’s army parades booty and prisoners of war (not shown here) in front of him. The king’s bodyguards are stationed around him. Two attendants stand behind Sennacherib, waving fly-whisks so that nothing, not even little creatures buzzing around in the air, disturb the king’s tranquility. There is a royal tent behind the king. At the upper part of the panel, we can recognize figs and vines. The cuneiform inscription on the left reads: “Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria sat on a throne, and the booty of Lachish passed before him.” The king’s face was later deliberately defaced — most likely by an enemy soldier — after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Assyrian soldiers parading the prisoners of ward before Sennacherib (on the right, not shown here). Most likely those represent the heads of the rebellion. All of them are bare-footed and wear nothing on their head; a sign of humiliation. All of them seem to ask for mercy. One prostrates, two kneels and the other 3 stand before the king. Most likely, they were executed later on. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Assyrian soldiers parading the prisoners of war before Sennacherib (on the right and not shown here). Most likely, these figures represent the heads of the rebellion. All of them are bare-footed and wear nothing on their head, which is a sign of humiliation. All of them seem to ask for mercy. One prostrates, two kneels and the other three stand before the king. They were executed later on in all likelihood. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Some of the prisoners are being "beheaded". The one on the left is about to get his through cut by an Assyrian soldier. Another one on the right (most of his body was lost) was already beheaded and dead; his supine and flaccid posture suggest that. The Assyrian literature clearly mentioned that only the heads of a rebellion or enemy (king, prince, commander-in-chief, high ranking officials,...etc.) face execution, usually through beheading. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Some of the prisoners are beheaded here. The one on the left is about to be decapitated by an Assyrian soldier. Another prisoner on the right (most of his body is lost) has already been beheaded; his supine and flaccid posture suggests this. Two Assyrian soldiers on the right side observe the beheading process. Assyrian literature clearly mentions that only the heads of a rebellion (king, prince, commander-in-chief, high ranking officials,…etc.) face execution, usually through beheading. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the Southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is is detail of part of terracotta octagonal prism. This foundation document is one of the annals of Sennahcerib and dates back to 694 BCE. The Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions narrate the military campaigns of Sennacherib; the capture of Lachish and the siege of Jerusalem took place in the 3rd campaign, in 701 BCE. The King's account of the siege of Lachish is given in column iii, lines 38-81. From Niveveh, Mesopotamia, Iraq. The British Museum, London. WA 103000. Photo Osama S. M. Amin.

This is a detail of part of a terracotta prism. This foundation document is one of the annals of Sennacherib, dating back to 694 BCE. The Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions narrate the military campaigns of Sennacherib: The capture of Lachish and the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE. The King’s account of the siege of Lachish is given in column iii, lines 38-81. From Nineveh, Mesopotamia, Iraq. The British Museum, London. WA 103000. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Flint sling stones (with modern sling). These stones were excavated at the Level III of the city gate of Lachish. Donated by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome in 1956. The British Museum, London.Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Flint sling-stones (with modern sling). These stones were excavated at Level III of the city gate of Lachish. They were thrown by the Assyrian soldiers at the city’s towers. Donated by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome in 1956. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Arrowheads found at Lachish. There are 6 iron arrowheads and 6 "bone" arrowheads; the latter were produced during the siege, when iron became scarce. There some incrustation and discoloration of these bony arrowheads. The British Museum, London. Photo Osama S. M. Amin.

These are arrowheads found at Lachish. There are six iron arrowheads and six “bone” arrowheads. The latter were produced during the siege when iron became scarce. There is incrustation and discoloration (from burns) of these bony arrowheads. Donated by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome in 1956. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Plan of the South-West Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh. Room XXXVI was labelled with red lines to show the original alighnment of the these wall releifs housed in the British Museum. The sketch/drawing belongs to the British Museum. This photo is shot by and is © Osama S. M. Amin.

Plan of the South-West Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh. Room XXXVI was labelled with red lines to show the original alignment and position of the these wall reliefs, which are now housed in the British Museum. This image belongs to the British Museum. This photo is shot by and is © Osama S. M. Amin.

 Room 10b at the British Museum. The Siege of Lachish wall reliefs can be seen here with their corresponding description. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Room 10b at the British Museum. The Siege of Lachish wall reliefs can be seen here with their corresponding descriptions. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Room 10b at the British Museum. Assyrian; The Siege of Lachish. © Osama S. M. Amin.

Room 10b at the British Museum. Assyria. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This video describes about Room 10b, and how the reliefs were arranged and displayed.

Some details of the reliefs and associated reliefs:

Prisoners playing lyres. Three musicians (possibly Judaean prisoners) are marched under escort through a mountainous country. Their dress indicate that they came from somewhere to the west of Assyria, possibly Phoenicia. The scene recalls the Biblical lament (Psalm 137) referring to a later period: "they that carried us away captives required us a song". Assyrian, about 700-692 BCE. From Room XLVII, the South-West Palace, Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Mesopotamia. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Prisoners playing lyres. Three musicians — possibly Judaean prisoners — are marched under escort through a mountainous country. Their dress indicate that they came from somewhere to the west of Assyria, possibly Phoenicia. The scene recalls the biblical lament (Psalm 137) referring to a later period: “…They that carried us away captives required us a song..” Assyrian, about 700-692 BCE. From Room XLVII, the southwest palace, Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Mesopotamia. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Detail of Sennacherib's marvelous chair. The king sits on this exquisitely carved chair or throne. There 3 vertical registers of men wearing horned head caps (?deities). The king's feet rests on foot stool; note the king's "shoe" and his dress. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Detail of Sennacherib’s marvelous chair. The king sits on this exquisitely carved chair or throne. There three vertical registers of men wearing horned head caps (deities?). The king’s feet rests on foot stool; note the king’s “shoe” and his dress. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is one of the most commonly overlooked figures within Lachish's the reliefs. Recognizable by his long sword hanging by his side, his curly beard, and his diadem, this figure greats Sennacherib in a close proximity, almost touching him, denoting a person of a highest rank. This cheif in command of the king and 3nd in command of the whole Assyrian Empire; so-called Turtanu (in Assyrian). From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is one of the most commonly overlooked figures within the Lachish’s reliefs. Recognizable by his long sword hanging by his side, his curly beard, wonderful dress, and his diadem, this figure greets Sennacherib in a close proximity, almost touching him, which denotes a person of a highest rank. This is man in command of the king and second in command of the whole Assyrian Empire — the so-called “Turtanu” in Assyrian. The king’s hand appears on the right. A soldier or body guard, holding a mace is seen on the left, behind this figure. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Sennacherib's head was deliberately damaged by an enemy soldier after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE; this is the only figure among all figures depicted on the Lachish's reliefs who was vandalized. Note that the head cap had received 5 hits by a sharp object while the King's face was slashed by a large thrust; the latter had virtually erased the King's eyes, nose, and mouth. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Sennacherib’s head was deliberately damaged by an enemy soldier after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE. This is the only figure depicted on the Lachish’s reliefs, which was vandalized. Note that the head cap received five hits by a sharp object, while the king’s face was slashed by a large thrust. The latter virtually erased the king’s eyes, nose, and mouth. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is the foot stool of the king. Here, the King appears to wear a shoe, not a sandal! Note the shoe's exquisitely carved details. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is the foot stool of the king. Here, the king appears to wear a shoe, not a sandal! Note the shoe’s exquisitely carved details. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is one of 2 cuneiform inscriptions which were carved on one of the reliefs. These 4 horizintal lines read "Sennacherib, the mighty king, king of the country of Assyria, sitting on the throne of judgment, before (or at the entrance of) the city of Lachish (Lakhisha). I give permission for its slaughter". From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is one of the two cuneiform inscriptions, which were carved on one of the reliefs. These four horizontal lines read: “Sennacherib, the mighty king, king of the country of Assyria, sitting on the throne of judgment, before (or at the entrance of) the city of Lachish (Lakhisha). I give permission for its slaughter.” From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin. (Source of the transliteration: Discoveries among the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, by Sir Henry Layard, 1853).

This is the 2nd cuneiform inscription, which reads " Tent, Of Sennacherib, King of Assyria". It defines the tent on the relief as the King's one. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the South-West Palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

This is the second cuneiform inscription, which reads: “Tent of Sennacherib, king of Assyria.” From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXVI of the southwest palace, panels 11-13. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin. (Source of the transliteration is the British Museum’s website).

Finally, this is not part of the Lachish's reliefs. This wall panel was found in another room, Room XXXII of the South-West Palace. The overall design and depictions of the figures point out to a single sculptor/artist. Here, Assyrian soldeirs reveiw prisoners of war and deported inhabitants of cities in modern-day Iran or eastern Turkey, conquered by Sennacherib. Some of the women with their children appear among men prisoners. Some of the men were handcuffed. At the upper right part of the panel, Asssyrian soldiers hold decapitated heads of the prisoners and a pile of "heads" can be seen. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXII of the South-West Palace, panels 7-8. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

Finally, this is not part of the Lachish’s reliefs. This wall relief was found in another room, Room XXXII of the southwest palace. The overall design and depictions of the figures and their similarities with those of Lachish’s point to the same artist or creator. Here, Assyrian soldiers are reviewing prisoners of war and deported inhabitants of cities, which Sennacherib conquered. Women and children appear interspersed among the male prisoners. Some of the men are handcuffed, while a few raise their hands, as a gesture for mercy! At the upper right part of the panel, Assyrian soldiers hold decapitated heads and “pile of heads” can also be seen. From Nineveh (modern-day Mosul Governorate, Iraq), Room XXXII of the southwest palace, panels 7-8. The British Museum, London. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The article was drafted depending on the following resources:

  1. History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
  2. The British Museum- collection search.
  3. Three personal visits to the British Museum.
  4. The “Lachish Reliefs” and the City of Lachish by David Ussishkin.
  5. Discoveries among the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon by Sir Henry Layard.

Disclaimer:

The city of Lachish lies within modern-day modern Israel. The area is also called Palestine or the Levant. The author does not endorse any specific term of the aforementioned ones.

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Osama S. M. Amin

Osama graduated from Baghdad University, College of Medicine and was the valedictorian student in internal medicine. He got membership diplomas of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Ireland (MRCPI) and Glasgow (MRCP Glasg) and then became Board-certified in neurology. Osama is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (FRCP Glasg), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (FRCP Edin), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FRCPI), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London FRCP Lond), and Fellow of the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (FAHA). Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Clinical School of the International Medical University, Malaysia. Osama published more than 50 articles in international peer-reviewed neurology journals and 5 self-assessment books for the membership diploma of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is an associate editor, guest editor, reviewer and former editor-in-chief in several international peer-reviewed internal medicine and neurology journals. Osama is very interested in Mesopotamian history and always tries to take photos of archaeological sites and artifacts in museums, both in Iraq and around the world. He is a contributor/team member of "Medical MasterClass," the online educational arm of the Royal College of Physicians of London, UK.