All posts tagged: Assyria

Detail of a gypsum wall relief from the North-West at Nimrud. What has survived is a left hand of an Apkallu (Akkadian, which means sage). The hand grips on the handle of a buckle. The buckle is supposed to contain a fluid (?water for purification). The cuneiform text of the so-called "Standard Inscription" of Ashurnasirpal II runs over the relief. At the right upper angle, part of the "Sacred Tree" appears. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

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.

Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

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.

Side B: There are 4 tribute-bearers from Suhu carrying "silver, gold... byssus, garments with multi-colored trim and linen".  Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III at the British Museum

I was attending an event at the Royal College of Physicians of London in early March 2016, and I had a plenty of time to spare. One of my targets was, of course, the British Museum. Two years ago, Jan van der Crabben (founder and CEO of the Ancient History Encyclopedia) asked me to draft a blog article about the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, but I lacked detailed and high-quality images of all aspects of the obelisk. Nowadays, I’m equipped with a Nikon D750 full-frame camera and incredible lenses. So let’s spend some time looking at the obelisk and enjoy its wonderful artistic scenes. The obelisk lies at the heart of Room 6 of the Ground Floor. The overall surrounding lighting is unfortunately scarce, but who cares, my camera can overcome this very easily! Remember, no “flash” photography is allowed.

Detail of an alabaster bas-relief showing a lion being stabbed in the neck. The lion has jumped and reached a critical point very close to the king's chariot. The king's attendants thrust their spears onto the lion's neck to stop the lion; the king, using his right hand, stabs the lion deeply into his neck. The lion's painful facial expression was  depicted very delicately. From Room C of the North Palace, Nineveh (modern-day Kouyunjik, Mosul Governorate), Mesopotamia, Iraq. Circa 645-535 BCE. The British Museum, London. Photo©Osama S.M. Amin.

Assyrian Lion-Hunting at the British Museum

Whoever was privileged to gain access to the North Palace of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, could consider himself part of something timeless. Thanks to the great work of Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910), who unveiled a large number of alabaster bas-reliefs, which once decorated the walls of that king’s Palace (built around 645 BCE); the Assyrian lion-hunting scenes! These extraordinary carvings, so dynamic and full of movements, are so realistic and so accomplished and are some of the most remarkable ancient artifacts ever found. They were discovered by Rassam in the year 1853 and have been housed in the British Museum since 1856. Rassam stated in his autobiography that “one division of the workmen, after 3-4 hours of hard labor, were rewarded by the grand discovery of a beautiful bas-relief in a perfect state of preservation”. Rassam ordered his men to dig a large hole in the mound; after more than 2,000 years, the remains of a royal palace were found. The mud-bricks had disappeared, of course, completely but the reliefs themselves, which once decorated them, …

Stunning Nemrut Dagi and the Kingdom of Commagene

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Dr Christine Winzor writes about the colossal stone heads at Nemrut Dağ, Turkey. The colossal stone heads at Nemrut Dağ, with their distinctive array of crowns and caps, are among the most iconic images of Turkey. Many guidebooks and tour agencies stress the importance of visiting this monument – sometimes referred to as the Throne of the Gods – at either sunrise or sunset to appreciate fully the spectacular illumination and reflection of the sun’s rays on the sculptures and tumulus. Others specifically advise against visiting at these times on the grounds that inevitably you will share this impressive event with a large crowd of other spectators, thereby spoiling the sense of majestic isolation.

Lion Gate, Hattusa

What Caused The Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse?

The urge to find a single explanation as the cause for such calamitous events seems to come from a modern human need for an easy explanation as often as possible. The decline of the Late Bronze Age civilizations of the Mediterranean and Near East has puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries. While many have ascribed the collapse of several civilizations to the enigmatic Sea Peoples, Professor Eric H. Cline, former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at George Washington University, presents a more complicated and nuanced scenario in his new book, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Professor Eric H. Cline speaks to Ancient History Encyclopedia’s James Blake Wiener about his new title and the circumstances that lead to the collapse of the cosmopolitan world of the Late Bronze Age in this interview.

Assessment of the ISIS Destruction at the Mosul Museum

This is a cross-posting from the blog Gates of Nineveh. Part 1 and Part 2 of the original posts can be found there. Last week ISIS released yet another propaganda video, showing what has been feared since the fall of Mosul last summer: the destruction of ancient artifacts of the Mosul Museum. By now most of the world has seen this video, which has been featured in all the world’s major news agencies. This post will attempt to identify what has been lost and assess the damage. As in several of the group’s past videos, a spokesman for the group appears in the video to explain the rationale for the destruction. International Business Times has provided a translation: These ruins that are behind me, they are idols and statues that people in the past used to worship instead of Allah. The so-called Assyrians and Akkadians and others looked to gods for war, agriculture and rain to whom they offered sacrifices…The Prophet Mohammed took down idols with his bare hands when he went into Mecca. We …