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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 148

"In the long gallery, which contained scenes representing the moving of winged figures," says Smith, "I found a great number of tablets, mostly along the floor; they included syllabaries, bilingual lists, mythological and historical tablets. Among these tablets I discovered a beautiful bronze Assyrian fork, having two prongs joined by ornamental shoulder to shaft of spiral work, the shaft ending in the head of an ass. This is a beautiful and unique specimen of Assyrian work, and shows the advances the people had made in the refinements of life. South of this there were numerous tablets round Layard's old library chamber, and here I found part of a curious astrolabe, and fragments of the history of Sargon, King of Assyria, 722 B.C. In one place, below the level of the floor, I discovered a fine fragment of the history of Assurbanipal, containing new and curious matter relating to his Egyptian wars, and to the affairs of Gyges, King of Lydia.[Pg 353] From this part of the palace I gained also the shoulder of a colossal statue, with an inscription of Assurbanipal. In another spot I obtained a bone spoon, and a fragment of the tablet with the history of the seven evil spirits. Near this I discovered a bronze style, with which I believe the cuneiform tablets were impressed. In another part of the excavation I found part of a monument with the representation of a fortification. In the western part of the palace, near the edge of the mound, I excavated and found remains of crystal and alabaster vases, and specimens of the royal seal. Two of these are very curious; one is a paste seal, the earliest example of its kind, and the other is a clay impression of the seal of Sargon, King of Assyria. Near where the principal seals were discovered I found part of a sculpture with a good figure of a dead buffalo in a stream. Among these sculptures and inscriptions were numerous small objects, including beads, rings, stone seals, etc."[4]

By January 1, 1874, Smith had no less than six hundred men employed. But he had to encounter tremendous local difficulties, especially demands that he should pay immense sums to the proprietors of the land which he excavated. Soon afterward, the season being unpropitious, he returned to England. A third visit to Mesopotamia proved his last, as he became ill and passed away at Aleppo in 1876, to the universal regret not only of those who were privileged to have his friendship, but to all who had perused his works and were aware of his strenuous life and studies. From the position of a bank-note engraver he had raised himself to that of an esteemed scholar, and his kindness of[Pg 354] heart and honesty of purpose, no less than his outstanding abilities, make him one of the most gracious figures in the history of a science to which many men of high endeavour have devoted their lives.


Work of the excavators in Babylon. One hundred workmen laboured in digging this cut, which is 40 feet deep. Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, London.



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