Archaeology in the Area of Ancient Assyria

Travelers for many centuries noticed many strange mounds scattered along the Tigris and Euphrates Valley all the way to the Persian Gulf. Some of the mounds were shaped like a box and many stories were told. In 1811 Claude James Rich, A British businessman was living in Baghdad, 50 miles NE of ancient Babylon. He became aware of some interesting bricks that were found and visited the site of Babylon. He located and documented several mounds in the area of ancient Babylon. He also dug into some of them and found several bricks, tablets and other things with strange inscriptions on them. In 1820 he visited Mosul in the north and found several mounds which he thought to be the site of ancient Nineveh. He did some digging and found some cuneiform tablets which he could not get deciphered. He donated his discoveries to the British Museum, and word began to circulate in Europe that the remains of Babylon and Nineveh had been located. Mounds often contained ruins of ancient cities, built on top of another. In the Near East these sites are called "tells", the Arabic word for "mounds". Some of these mounds reached 100 feet or more in height. Cities were often rebuilt on the same site. In 1842 Paul Emile Botta, a man sent from France to be consul at Mosul, a city on the upper Tigris River, began excavating some peculiar looking mounds across the Tigris River about 10 miles SE of Mosul. He believed them to be the ruins of ancient Nineveh. Botta's excavations were considered illegal according to Ottoman laws. His excavations led to an astounding discovery, one of the mounds turned out to be ancient Khorsabad, one of the capitals of the great Assyrian Empire. Within 10 years he had unearthed the greatest palace ever discovered, the palace of Sargon (722-705 BC) with all its monuments and winged bulls covering an area of nearly 1 square mile. France finally received permission from the Ottoman government and his discoveries were brought to the Louvre Museum in France, which are still there today. The Louvre's Assyrian display opened to the public in the presence of King Louis-Philippe on May 1, 1847. In 1845 Austen Henry Layard, a young English scholar visited some of the mounds and also began digging without formal permission from the Ottoman government. He ended up discovering the ruins of Calah and Nineveh, two more mighty cities of the ancient Assyrian empire. Layard first discovered ancient Calah or Nimrud, a mound located around 20 miles SE of Mosul and nearly 2 miles east of the Tigris River. He first discovered the palace of Assurnasirpal (884-860 BC), who reigned the same time as king Omri of Israel. He began transporting large colossal items to the British Museum. Two years later he uncovered the ruins of the famous and evil Nineveh, to which the Bible spoke so much about. The long lost civilization had been buried under the dust for over 25 centuries. He discovered the grand palace of king Sennacherib (705-681 BC). "As the sun went down, I saw for the first time the great conical mound of Nimrud rising against the clear evening sky. It was on the opposite side of the river and not very distant, and the impression that it made upon me was one never to he forgotten. After my visit to Küyünjik and Nebi Yunus, opposite Mosul, and the distant view of Nimrud, my thought ran constantly upon the possibility of thoroughly exploring with the spade those great ruins." - Austen Henry Layard

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