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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 143

Soon a well-planned sinking operation came upon one of the palace walls, and subsequent digging was rewarded by the discovery of many chambers and halls faced with slabs of gypsum covered with mythological figures, battle scenes, processions, and similar subjects. He had, in fact, unearthed a palace built at Nineveh by Sargon, King of Assyria, who reigned 722-705 B.C., one of the finest examples of Assyrian palatial architecture. He continued his excavations at Khorsabad until 1845, and was successful in bringing to light a temple and a grand porch decorated by three pairs of wings, under which passed the road from the city to the palace. Many of the fruits of his labours were removed to Paris and deposited in the Louvre. His successor, Victor Place, continued Botta's work at Khorsabad, and discovered a city gate guarded by winged bulls, the backs of which supported the arch of the entrance.

EXCAVATIONS IN BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA. From Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities, by permission of the Director of the British Museum.


Soon after this Layard spent Christmas with Sir Henry Rawlinson of the British Museum, with whom he cemented a warm friendship, and together they were able to overcome the unfriendliness of the Turkish officials. Hormuzd Rassam, an intelligent native Christian, came to Layard's assistance, and operations were once more commenced at Nimrûd. Rassam's labours were quickly crowned by success, for he came upon a large hall in a fine state of preservation. The serious work of excavation was not without its humorous side, for if they chanced to unearth a carven monster with the body of a bull and the head of a bearded man, the native labourers threw down their tools and ran. The Turkish Governor, too, hearing from a native source that 'Nimrod' had been found, sent a message to the effect that "his remains should be treated with respect and be no further disturbed."



Layard had now unearthed many valuable sculptures, and he resolved to attempt their dispatch to England. Rawlinson sent a small steamer, the Nitocris, to Nimrûd, but it was found impossible to ship the massive pieces on this frail craft, and even the smaller sculptures had perforce to be floated down the Tigris on rafts. Layard's health was by this time in no very robust state, but a two months' mountain holiday in Kurdistan refreshed him, and[Pg 343] once more he recommenced his labours at Nimrûd, heartened by the news that the British Government had awarded a grant for the continuation of his researches. The grant, however, was distressingly small, and its inadequacy compelled him to limit his excavations in the most unsatisfactory way. Despite this, the new operations were rich in results, especially those in the building known as the 'south-west palace.' This palace, he ascertained from bricks unearthed, had been built by Esar-haddon, King of Assyria. Sculptures glorifying King Assur-nazir-pal (885-860 B.C.) were also discovered at the north-west palace, some of them of a most spirited character, representing the King in battle, crossing a river full of turtles and fishes, or leading his army.


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