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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 147

All the eastern and southern portions of the mound of Nimr├╗d had been destroyed by being turned into a burial-place. The ruins had been excavated after the fall of the Assyrian empire, walls had been dug through, and chambers broken into, and the openings filled with coffins.

[Pg 350]

Mr Smith then turned his attention to the ruins of Nineveh at Kouyunjik and Nebbi Yunas. Layard and even the Turkish Government had both been before him here. He commenced operations by cutting trenches at the south-eastern corner of Assur-bani-pal's palace. But at first nothing of great interest resulted, and he diverted operations to the palace of Sennacherib hard by. Here he came upon a number of inscriptions which compensated him for his labour. At length the excavations in Assur-bani-pal's palace bore fruit, for there were unearthed the greater portion of seventeen lines of inscription belonging to the first column of the Deluge narrative, and fitting into the only place where there was a serious blank in the story.

The palace of Sennacherib also steadily produced its tribute of objects, including a small tablet of Esar-haddon, King of Assyria, some new fragments of one of the historical cylinders of Assur-bani-pal, and a curious fragment of the history of Sargon, King of Assyria, relating to his expedition against Ashdod, which is mentioned in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. On the same fragment was also part of the list of Median chiefs who paid tribute to Sargon.

The proprietors of The Daily Telegraph considered that with the finding of the Deluge fragment the purpose of the expedition had been served, and that further excavation in Mesopotamia should be carried on under national auspices. Mr Smith was therefore forced to return to England, but not before he had discovered further a valuable syllabary, and two portions of the sixth tablet of the Deluge story, as well as other minor objects of interest.

About the end of 1873, however, the British[Pg 351] Museum authorities dispatched Mr Smith once more to Mesopotamia, where he recommenced operations at Kouyunjik, and unearthed on this occasion an inscription of Shalmaneser I, King of Assyria (1300 B.C.), recording that he founded the palace of Nineveh, and alluding to his restoration of the temple of Ishtar. Inscriptions of his son Tukulti-ninip were also found at this place, as were dedications of Assur-nazir-pal (885 B.C.) and Shalmaneser II (860 B.C.). Some very curious pottery, too, came from this spot, ornamentations being laid on the clay, as in many examples of the pottery of the Maya of Central America. At the same time fragments of sculptured walls representing marching warriors were brought to light, and some tablets of great importance giving the names of six new Babylonian kings, a sixth tablet of the Deluge series, and a bilingual tablet in fine preservation.

In the south-west palace Smith excavated at the grand entrance to see if any records remained under the pavement, but there were none. This part of the pavement had been broken through, and anything under it had long ago been carried away. He sank some trenches in the grand hall and found a fragment of inscription, and further on in the palace several other fragments. His principal excavation was, however, carried on over what Layard called the library chamber of this palace. Layard, who discovered the library chamber, describes it as full of fragments of tablets, up to a foot or more from the floor. This chamber Layard had cleared out and he had brought its treasures to England, but Smith thought on examining the collection at the British Museum that not one-half of the library had been removed, and steadily adhered[Pg 352] to the belief that the rest of the tablets must be in the palace of Sennacherib. On excavating he found nearly three thousand fragments of tablets in the chambers round Layard's library chamber, and from the position of these fragments he was led to the opinion that the library was not originally situated in these chambers but in an upper story of the palace, and that on the collapse of the building they fell into the chambers below. Some of the chambers in which he found inscribed tablets had no communication with each other, while fragments of the same tablets were in them; and looking at this fact, and the positions and distribution of the fragments, he was convinced that the tablets were scattered over a wide area and resolved to excavate over an extensive section of the palace.


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