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Archaeology of Ancient Assyria

Ancient Assyria and Archaeology




The study of the archaeology of ancient Assyria is immense, to say the least. Who would have known that the exploration of ancient Assyria would have uncovered for us the most ancient literature of antiquity. Scattered within museums and collections on 3 continents (U.S., Europe and Asia) are the vast libraries of the ancient Assyrians, their historical chronicles, laws, civil records, military campaigns, Kingdom archives, diplomatic letters, educational tools, pronunciation charts, dictionaries, hymn books, financial transactions, contracts, maps, and texts relating to astrology, astronomy, mathematics, magical formulas, religious myths, and more.


There have actually been well over 300,000 clay tablets and inscriptions discovered so far with much more yet to be discovered. Also only approximately one-fifth of the discoveries have been deciphered and made available.


Very little was really known or believed about ancient Assyria until the nineteenth century. The recovery of ancient Assyrian history can be largely attributed to the work of British and French archaeologists in the nineteenth century. The discoveries of these pioneers would be sent back to their mother countries. These are the men who were the real founders who paved the way for modern exploration of ancient Assyria.


While Edward Robinson of the United States had began his work excavating ancient Palestine in 1838, just four years later in 1842 a Frenchman named Paul Emil Botta (French) began excavating the site of ancient Nineveh, and later the following year he excavated ancient Khorsabad. His discoveries were unbelievable which included Sargon IIís palace, his work woke up the world to the study of Assyriology.


In 1846 Austen Henry Layard (English) launched English excavations in Assyria and excavated the mound at Calah (Nimrud) uncovering many palaces including the magnificent palace of Sennacherib, and he also made many discoveries at the site at Nineveh. Layard's associate, Hormuzd Rassam, discovered Ashurbanipal's palace at Nineveh and the major part of his library. His work was later followed by Loftus and George Smith.


In 1903 German archaeologists researched the ruins at ancient Asshur (Qalí at Sharqat) which shed much light on the history of ancient Assyria.


Many other archaeological expeditions have been carried out in ancient Assyria to the present day. There have been literally tons of discoveries along the Euphrates River. At Mari and Nuzi alone there have been over 40,000 cuneiform tablets and inscriptions, revealing a wealth of information about life in ancient Assyria and confirming the Bible as a Book of history.