Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 149Hormuzd Rassam
The lamented death of Smith caused the British authorities to request Mr Hormuzd Rassam, who had retired into private life in England, to take up the vacant post. Mr Rassam at once accepted the trust, and started for Constantinople in November 1876. At first there was serious trouble with the Turkish Government, but in January 1878 Rassam was enabled to commence excavations, which he carried on almost continuously for five years. Layard, as ambassador at Constantinople, stood him in good stead. He took much advantage of native talent, which, if not up to the standard of European efficiency, he found in no wise despicable. But too many excavations were being carried on at one and the same time. Again, Rassam was prone to attempt sensational finds rather than to keep steadily at the more solid and less showy work of excavation. Guided by certain indications of the presence of objects of the Shalmaneser period at Kouyunjik, he dug there once more and succeeded in unearthing the bronze plaques which had covered the cedar gates of a large Assyrian building at least 2500 years old, and built by Shalmaneser II. They represented warriors and equestrian figures, and it was found that the site on which they were discovered had been the city of Imgur-Bel. Rassam also recovered further clay tablets from the library of Assur-bani-pal at Kouyunjik. With his return to England in 1882 it may be said that the Assyrian[Pg 355] excavations of the nineteenth century, in contradistinction to those carried out on Babylonian soil, came to an end.
With the excavations of the Frenchman de Sarzec at Tellô the second great period of Chaldean archæological research may be said to have commenced. Ernest de Sarzec was French Vice-consul at Basra, but by his private efforts he succeeded in making Tellô 'the Pompeii of early Babylonian antiquity.' The two principal mounds excavated by him are known to Assyriologists as 'Mound A' and 'Mound B.' Digging in the former he soon collected sufficient evidence to convince him that he stood on a site of great antiquity. He found indeed that Mound A consisted of a platform of unbaked bricks crowned by an edifice of considerable size and extent. He unearthed part of a great statue, on the shoulder of which was engraved the name of Gudea (2700 B.C.), patesi, or ruler, of Lagash, with which city Mound A proved to be identical, and later exposed numerous large columns of bricks of the time of Gudea, the 'stele of vultures' erected by King E-anna-tum, and two large terra-cotta cylinders of Gudea, each inscribed with about 2000 lines of early cuneiform writing.
On a later visit, at the end of 1880 and beginning of 1881, he further developed excavation in Mound A, and discovered nine large dolerite statues, fragments of precious bas-reliefs, and numerous inscriptions. He also came upon layers of more ancient remains beneath the building he had unearthed in Mound A.
The collection of early Babylonian sculptures regained[Pg 356] by de Sarzec was hailed with acclamation in Paris. An Oriental section was instituted in the Louvre, and Léon Heuzy commenced the publication of a monumental work, Découvertes en Chaldée par Ernest de Sarzec (Paris, 1884,