The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser
nineteenth century, the area was a province at the far eastern edge
of the Ottoman Empire, a region of semi autonomous pashaliks each
governed primarily by a local pasha, though officially under the
control of the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. Seen by Western travelers
as a remote and unwelcoming locale of largely unrelieved desert."
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
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
He donated his discoveries to the British Museum, and word began to
circulate in Europe that the remains of Babylon and Nineveh had been
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
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
"What can all this mean? Who built this structure? In
what century did he live? To what nation did he belong?
Are these walls telling me their tales of joy and woe?
Is this beautiful cuneiformed character a language? I
know not. I can read their glory and their victories in
their figures, but their story, their age, their blood,
is to me a mystery. Their remains mark the fall of a
glorious and a brilliant past, but of a past known not
to a living man."
had the first revelation of a new world of antiquities.- P.E. Botta
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.
Mounds seen by A. H. Layard from
his sketch in "The Monuments of Nineveh".
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
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
"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 KŁyŁnjik 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
Description of the Area of Assyria in
A missionary named James Fletcher visited
Mesopotamia in the 1800's, and this is how he described the area:
"Yet what a moral might be derived from the present
condition of the capital of Assur. In lieu of lofty palaces and
gorgeous temples, the eye surveys only the mounds composed of their
dust, or the miserable huts which have arisen on their site. The
gardens where Sardanapalus revelled are wasted and desolate, the
sounds of soft and luxurious music that once floated on the soft
Assyrian breezes have yielded to the silence of devastation or
- James Phillips Fletcher, Notes from
Nineveh, and Travels in Mesopotamia, Assyria and Syria, 9 vols.
(London: Colburn, 1850), vol. 1, 206
The British Museum and Shalmaneser III
The British Museum in London contains
much of the world's artifacts from ancient Assyria. The museum was
originally founded in 1753 to provide a resting place for the great
collection of Sir Hans Sloane, which was left to the care of the
British nation. Over time it became one of the most famous museums
in the world. The Biblical and ancient world artifacts are in great
quantity. The main Biblical artifacts related to Shalmaneser III
The Black Obelisk, which reveals
King Jehu of Israel bowing.
The Monolith from Kurkh, which
mentions Ahab the Israelite.
The Bronze Gate from Balawat,
which reveals Assyrian assaults and captives.
The Statue of Shalmaneser III,
revealing an image of the monarch seated.
There are many other Assyrian items in
the British Museum, including numerous artifacts from each of the
Assyrian kings who lived and reigned during the period of the kings
of Israel and Judah in the Bible. There are also numerous items from
Babylon, Egypt, Persia, Judah, Israel, Moab, the ancient Levant,
Sumer, Rome, Greece, and many more areas of the ancient world
bringing a wealth of knowledge of the antiquities of the ancient
world as well as scientific evidence of people, places, and events
mentioned in the Bible.
The Black Obelisk
© Bible History Online