Top Ten Assyrian Artifacts

Top Ten Assyrian Artifacts

       Assyria or Aššur (Akkadian for Assyria) was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the late 25th or early–24th century BC to 605 BC. Assyria was centered on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia (present day northern Iraq). The Assyrians came to rule powerful empires a number of times through history. As part of the greater Mesopotamian civilization  Assyria was at its height a highly advanced nation for its time in terms of architecture, engineering, agriculture, economics, civil service, mathematics, medicine, literature, military technology, law, astronomy and libraries/record keeping. Assyria originally was one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia. In the late 24th century BC, Assyrian kings were regional leaders only, and subject to Sargon of Akkad who united all the Akkadian Semites and Sumerian speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC. Following the fall of the Akkadian Empire c. 2154 BC, and the succeeding Sumerian Third Dynasty of Ur, there were a number of other competing Amorite states such as Isin and Larsa, but Mesopotamia eventually coalesced into two distinct nations: Assyria in the north, and Babylonia in the south. From the late 19th century BC Assyria came into conflict with the newly created state of Babylonia which eventually eclipsed the older Sumero-Akkadian states in the south. Assyria experienced fluctuating fortunes in the Middle Assyrian period. Assyria had a period of empire under Shamshi-Adad I and Ishme-Dagan in the 19th and 18th centuries BC. Following this it found itself under short periods of Babylonian and Mitanni-Hurrian domination in the 18th and 15th centuries BC respectively, and another period of great power with the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire (from 1365 BC to 1075 BC) that included the reigns of kings such as Ashur-uballit I, Arik-den-ili, Tukulti-Ninurta I and Tiglath-Pileser I. During this period Assyria overthrew the Mitanni and eclipsed both the Hittite Empire and Egyptian Empire in the Near East. Beginning with the campaigns of Adad-nirari II from 911 BC, it again became a great power over the next three centuries, overthrowing the 25th dynasty of Egypt and conquering Egypt, Babylonia, Elam, Urartu/Armenia, Media, Persia, Mannea, Gutium, Phoenicia/Canaan, Aramea (Syria), Arabia, Israel, Judah, Edom, Moab, Samarra, Cilicia, Cyprus, Chaldea, Nabatea, Commagene, Dilmun and the Hurrians, Sutu and Neo-Hittites, driving the Ethiopians and Nubians from Egypt, defeating the Cimmerians and Scythians and exacting tribute from Phrygia, Magan and Punt among others. After its fall, (between 612 BC and 605 BC), Assyria remained a province and Geo-political entity under the Babylonian, Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid empires until the Arab Islamic invasion and conquest of Mesopotamia in the mid-7th century, when it was finally dissolved.

  1. Šedu

           In art they were depicted as hybrids, as winged bulls or lions with the head of a human male. There are still surviving figures of lamassu in bas-relief and some statues in museums. Notable examples of lamassu held by museums include those at the British Museum, Musée du Louvre, National Museum of Iraq, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Oriental Institute, Chicago. They are generally attributed to the ancient Assyrians. The motif of a winged animal with a human head is common to the near east with the first recorded instance in Ebla 3,000 BC. The first distinct lamassu motif appeared in Assyria during the reign of Tilgath Pilser.
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  2. Relief of Ashurnasirpal with the Tree of Life (883-859 BC)

    This is a relief from the N.W. palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) showing anointing of the Tree of Life. A winged god holds what appears to be a pinecone and a pot with the anointing oil. Above the Tree of Life is the royal signet of the god Ashur. The god Ashur is depicted as a man with a bow inside a winged solar disk or as a winged solar disk.
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  3. Nimrod Temple Relief depicting Nimrod

    This Assyrian relief of Nimrod located in the Nimrod Temple is a 100cm in height and 40cm wide. It was carved on a special type of rock that stores light during the day, which causes it to glow during the night. (Stela of King Ashurnasirpal II, 883 – 859 BC.)
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  4. Adad-Nirari III Relief (811 – 783 BC)

    Adad-nirari III was King of Assyria from 811 to 783 BC. He was the son and successor of Shamshi-Adad V and was apparently quite young at the time of his accession, because for the first five years of his reign his mother Shammuramat acted as regent, which may have given rise to the legend of Semiramis. Adad-nirari’s youth and the struggles his father had faced early in his reign, caused a serious weakening for the Assyrian rulership over Mesopotamia and gave way to the ambitions of the most high officers, the governors and the local rulers.
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  5. Shalmaneser III

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  6. The King

           Assyrian, 875–860 B.C. From Nimrud, Temple of Ishtar Sharrat-niphi. Magnesite. Statue: H 113 cm, W 32 cm, D 15 cm. Base: H 78 cm, W 35 cm, D 55 cm. ME 118871. The Trustees of the British Museum.
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  7. Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet

           Tablet containing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet 11 depicting the Deluge), now part of the holdings of the British Museum
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  8. MUL.APIN Tablet

           Babylonian astronomy collated earlier observations and divinations into sets of Babylonian star catalogues, during and after the Kassite rule over Babylonia. These star catalogues, written in cuneiform script, contained lists of constellations, individual stars, and planets. The constellations were probably collected from various other sources, the earliest catalogue, Three Stars Each mentions stars of Akkad, of Amurru, of Elam and others. Various sources have theorized a Sumerian origin for these Babylonian constellations, but an Elamite origin have also been proposed. A connection to the star symbology of Kassite kudurru border stones have also been claimed, but whether such kudurrus really represented constellations and astronomical information aside for the use of the symbols remains unclear. Star catalogues after Three Stars Each include the MUL.APIN list named after the first Babylonian constellation MULAPIN, “the Plough,” which is the current Triangulum constellation plus Gamma Andromedae. It lists, among others, 17 or 18 constellations in the zodiac. Later catalogues reduces the zodiacal set of constellations to 12, which were borrowed by the Egyptians and the Greeks, still surviving among the modern constellations.
  9. Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

           The “Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III” is a black limestone Neo-Assyrian bas-relief sculpture from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), in northern Iraq, commemorating the deeds of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC). It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it displays the earliest ancient depiction of an Israelite. Tribute offerings are shown being brought from identifiable regions and peoples. It was erected as a public monument in 825 BC at a time of civil war. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 and is now in the British Museum. A replica can be found at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois.
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  10. Assyrian Copy of Sumerian Planisphere

           A planisphere is a star chart analog computing instrument in the form of two adjustable disks that rotate on a common pivot. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars for any time and date. It is an instrument to assist in learning how to recognize stars and constellations. The astrolabe, an instrument that has its origins in the Hellenistic civilization, is a predecessor of the modern planisphere.
  11. Ishtar

           Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte.
  12. Winged Statuette of Imdugud (Pazuzu)

           In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu (sometimes Fazuzu or Pazuza) was the king of the demons of the wind, and son of the god Hanbi. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought.
  13. Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa

           The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa contains astrological forecasts. It currently resides in the British Museum under reference K.160.
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  14. Nimrud Lens

           The Nimrud lens is a 3,000 year old piece of rock crystal, which was unearthed by Austen Henry Layard at the Assyrian palace of Nimrud, in modern-day Iraq. It may have been used as a magnifying glass, or as a burning-glass to start fires by concentrating sunlight. Assyrian craftsmen made intricate engravings, and could have used such a lens in their work. Italian scientist Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome has proposed that the lens was used by the ancient Assyrians as part of a telescope, and that this explains their knowledge of astronomy. Experts on Assyrian archaeology are unconvinced, doubting that the optical quality of the lens is sufficient to be of much use. The ancient Assyrians saw the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by a ring of serpents, which Pettinato suggests was their interpretation of Saturn’s rings as seen through a telescope. Other experts say that serpents occur frequently in Assyrian mythology, and note that there is no mention of a telescope in any of the many surviving Assyrian astronomical writings. The Nimrud lens is on display in the British Museum.
  15. Relief ofRoyal Hunting Scenes (1,000-612 BC)

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  16. Bonus: Ishtar

           This statuette of Ishtar currently resides in the Louvre.
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  17. Victory Stele of Esarhaddon and Black Stone Inscription

           Esarhaddon was a king of Assyria who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the Aramean queen Naqi’a (Zakitu), Sennacherib’s second wife.
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  18. Synonym List Tablet

           Tablet of synonyms. British Museum reference K.4375.
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  19. Stela of Teshub

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  20. Taylor Prism and Sennacherib Prism

           The Taylor Prism and Sennacherib Prism are clay prisms inscribed with the same text, the annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib notable for describing his siege of Jerusalem during the reign of king Hezekiah. This event is recorded in several books contained in Bible including Isaiah chapters 33 and 36; 2 Kings 18:17; 2 Chronicles 32:9. This event is also recorded by Herodotus. The Sennacherib Prism is in the Oriental Institute of Chicago; the Taylor Prism is in the British Museum. Another Sennacherib Prism is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
  21. Anshar Relief

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  22. Relief of Ashurbanipal Hunting

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  23. Relief

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