Discoveries At Nineveh
by
Austen Henry Layard, Esq., D.C.L.

Text source: A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh. Austen Henry Layard. J. C. Derby. New York. 1854.


Chapter 2

(Page 12) My first step on reaching Mosul was to present my letters to Mohammed Pashaw, the governor of the province. Being a native of Candia, he was usually known as Keritli Oglu (the son of the Cretan), to distinguish him from his celebrated predecessor of the same name. The appearance of his excellency was not prepossessing, but it matched his temper and conduct. Nature had placed hypocrisy beyond his reach. He had one eye and one ear; he was short and fat, deeply marked by the small-pox, uncouth in gestures and harsh in voice. His fame had reached the seat of his government before him. On the road he had revived many good old customs and impositions, which the reforming spirit of the age had suffered to fall into decay. He particularly insisted on dish-parasi; [2.1] or a compensation in money, levied upon all villages in which a man of such rank is entertained, for the wear and tear of his teeth in masticating the food he condescends to receive from the inhabitants. On entering Mosul, he had induced several of the principal aghas, who had fled from the town on his approach, to (Page 13) return to their homes; and having made a formal display of oaths and protestations, cut their throats to show how much his word could be depended upon. At the time of my arrival, the population was in a state of terror and despair. Even the appearance of a casual traveler led to hopes, and reports were whispered about the town of the disgrace of the tyrant. Of this the pashaw was aware, and hit upon a plan to test the feelings of the people toward him. He was suddenly taken ill one afternoon, and was carried to his harem almost lifeless. On the following morning the palace was closed, and the attendants answered inquiries by mysterious motions, which could only be interpreted in one fashion. The doubts of the Mosuleeans gradually gave way to general rejoicings; but at mid-day his excellency, who had posted his spies all over the town, appeared in perfect health in the market-place. A general trembling seized the inhabitants. His vengeance fell principally upon those who possessed property, and had hitherto escaped his repacity. They were seized and stripped, on the plea that they had spread reports detrimental to his authority.

The villages, and the Arab tribes, had not suffered less than the townspeople. The pashaw was accustomed to give instructions to those who were sent to collect money, in three words - "Go, destroy, eat;"[2.2] and his agents were not generally backward in entering into the spirit of them. The tribes, who had been attacked and plundered, were retaliating upon caravans and travelers, or laying waste the cultivated parts of the pashawlic. The villages were deserted, and the roads were little frequented and very insecure.

Such was the pashaw to whom I was introduced two days after my arrival by the British vice-consul, Mr. Rassam. He read the letters which I presented to him, and received me with that civility which a traveler generally expects from a Turkish functionary of high rank. His anxiety to know the object of (Page 14) my journey was evident, but his curiosity was not gratified for the moment.

Many reasons rendered it necessary that my plans should be concealed, until I was ready to put them into execution. Although I had always experienced from M. Botta the most friendly assistance, there were others who did not share his sentiments; from the authorities and the people of the town I could only expect the most decided opposition. On the 8th of November, having secretly procured a few tools, I engaged a mason at the moment of my departure, and carrying with me a variety of guns, spears, and other formidable weapons, declared that I was going to hunt wild boars in a neighboring village, and floated down the Tigris on a small raft constructed for my journey. I was accompanied by Mr. Ross (a British merchant of Mosul[2.3]), my cawass, and a servant.

At this time of the year nearly seven hours are required to descend the Tigris, from Mosul to Nimroud. It was sunset before we reached the awai, or dam across the river. We landed and walked to the village of Naifa. No light appeared as we approached, nor were we even saluted by the dogs, which usually abound in an Arab village. We had entered a heap of ruins. I was about to return to the raft, upon which we had made up our minds to pass the night, when the glare of a fire lighted up the entrance to a miserable hovel. Through a crevice in the wall, I saw an Arab family crouching round a heap of half-extinguished embers. The dress of the man, the ample cloak and white turban, showed that he belonged to one of the tribes which cultivate a little land on the borders of the Desert, and are distinguished, by their more sedentary habits, from the Bedouins. Near him were three women, lean and haggard, their heads almost concealed in black handkerchiefs, (Page 15) and the rest of their persons enveloped in the striped aba. Some children, nearly naked, and one or two mangy greyhounds, completed the group. As we entered, all the party rose, and showed some alarm at this sudden appearance of strangers. The man, however, seeing Europeans, bid us welcome, and spreading some corn-sacks on the ground, invited us to be seated. The women and children retreated into a corner of the hut. Our host, whose name was Awad or Abd-Allah, was a sheikh of the Jehesh. His tribe having been plundered by the pashaw, and being now scattered in different parts of the country, he had taken refuge in this ruined village. He had learnt a little Turkish, and was intelligent and active. Seeing, at once, that he would be useful, I acquainted him with the object of my journey; offering him the prospect of regular employment in the event of the experiment proving successful, and assigning him fixed wages as superintendent of the workmen. He volunteered to walk, in the middle of the night, to Selamiyah, a village three miles distant, and to some Arab tents in the neighborhood, to procure men to assist in the excavations.

I had slept little during the night. The hovel in which we had taken shelter, and its inmates, did not invite slumber; but such scenes and companions were not new to me: they could have been forgotten, had my brain been less excited. Hopes, long cherished, were now to be realized or were to end in disappointment. Visions of palaces underground, of gigantic monsters, of sculptured figures, and endless inscriptions, floated before me. After forming plan after plan for removing the earth, and extricating these treasures, I fancied myself wandering in a maze of chambers from which I could find no outlet. Then, again, all was reburied, and I was standing on the grass-covered mound. Exhausted, I was at length sinking into sleep, when hearing the voice of Awad, I rose from my carpet, and joined him outside the hovel. The day already dawned; he had returned with six Arabs, who agreed for a small sum to work under my direction.

(Page 16) The lofty cone and broad mound of Nimroud broke like a distant mountain on the morning sky. But how changed was the scene since my former visit! The ruins were no longer clothed with verdure and many colored flowers; no signs of habitation, not even the black tent of the Arab, were seen upon the plain. The eye wandered over a parched and barren waste, across which occasionally swept the whirlwind, dragging with it a cloud of sand. About a mile from us was the small village of Nimroud, like Naifa, a heap of ruins.

Twenty minutes' walk brought us to the principal mound. The absence of all vegetation enabled me to examine the remains with which it was covered. Broken pottery and fragments of bricks, both inscribed with the cuneiform character, were strewed on all sides. The Arabs watched my motions as I wandered to and fro, and observed with surprise the objects I had collected. They joined, however, in the search, and brought me handfuls of rubbish, among which I found with joy the fragment of a bas relief. The material on which it was carved had been exposed to fire, and resembled, in every respect, the burnt gypsum of Khorsabad. Convinced from this discovery, that sculptured remains must still exist in some part of the mound, I sought for a place where excavations might be commenced with a prospect of success. Awad led me to a piece of alabaster which appeared above the soil. We could not remove it, and on digging downward, it proved to be the upper part of a large slab. I ordered all the men to work around it, and they shortly uncovered a second slab. Continuing in the same line, we came upon a third; and, in the course of the morning, discovered ten more, the whole forming a square, with a slab missing at one corner. It was evident that we had entered a chamber, and that the gap was its entrance. I now dug down the face of one of the stones, and an inscription in the cuneiform character was soon exposed to view. Similar inscriptions occupied the center of all the slabs, which were in the best preservation; but plain, with the exception of the writing. Leaving half the workmen to remove the rubbish (Page 17) from the chamber, I led the rest to the S. W. corner of the mound, where I had observed many fragments of calcined alabaster.

A trench, opened in the side of the mound, brought me almost immediately to a wall, bearing inscriptions in the same character as those already described. The slabs, which had been almost reduced to lime by exposure to intense heat, threatened to fall to pieces as soon as uncovered.

Night interrupted our labors. I returned to the village well satisfied with their result. It was now evident that the remains of buildings of considerable extent existed in the mound; and that although some had been injured by fire, others had escaped the conflagration. As inscriptions, and the fragment of a bas-relief had been found, it was natural to conclude that sculptures were still buried under the soil. I determined, therefore, to explore the N. W. corner, and to empty the chamber partly uncovered during the day.

On returning to the village, I removed from the crowded hovel in which we had passed the night. With the assistance of Awad, who was no less pleased than myself with our success, we patched up with mud the least ruined house in the village, and restored its falling roof. We contrived at least to exclude, in some measure, the cold night winds; and to obtain a little privacy for my companion and myself.

Next morning my workmen were increased by five Turcomans from Selamiyah, who had been attracted by the prospect of regular wages. I employed half of them in emptying the chamber, and the rest in following the wall at the S. W. corner of the mound. Before evening, the work of the first party was completed, and I found myself in a room[2.4] paneled with slabs about eight feet high, and varying from six to four feet in breadth. Upon one of them, which had fallen backward from its place, was rudely inscribed, in Arabic characters, the name of Ahmed Pashaw, one of the former (Page 18) hereditary governors of Mosul. A native of Selamiyah remembered that some Christians were employed to dig into the mound about thirty years before, in search of stone for the repair of the tomb of Sultan Abd-Allah, a Mussulman saint, buried on the left bank of the Tigris, a few miles below its junction with the Zab. They uncovered this slab; but being unable to move it, they cut upon it the name of their employer, the pashaw. My informant further stated that, in another part of the mound, he had forgotten the precise spot, they had found sculptured figures, which they broke in pieces to carry away the fragments.

The bottom of the chamber was paved with smaller slabs than those which lined the walls. They were covered with inscriptions on both sides, and had been placed upon a layer of bitumen, which, having been used in a liquid state, had retained a perfect impression in relief of the characters carved upon the stone. The inscriptions on the upright slabs were about twenty lines in length, and all were precisely similar.

In the rubbish near the bottom of the chamber, I found several objects in ivory, upon which were traces of gilding; among them were the figure of a king carrying in one hand the Egyptian crux ansata, or emblem of life, part of a crouching sphinx, and an elegant ornamental border of flowers. Awad, who had his own suspicions of the object of my search, which he could scarcely persuade himself was limited to mere stones, carefully collected all the scattered fragments of gold leaf he could find in the rubbish; and, calling me aside in a mysterious and confidential fashion, produced them wrapped up in a piece of dingy paper. "O bey," said he, "Wallah! your books are right, and the Franks know that which is hid from the true believer. Here is the gold, sure enough, and please God, we shall find it all in a few days. Only don't say anything about it to those Arabs, for they are asses and can not hold their tongues. The matter will come to the ears of the pashaw." The sheikh was much surprised, and equally disappointed, when I generously presented him with the treasures he had collected, and all such (Page 19) as he might hereafter discover. He left me, muttering "Yia Rubbi!" and other pious ejaculations, and lost in conjectures as to the meaning of these strange proceedings.

At the foot of the slabs in the S. W. corner, we found a great accumulation of charcoal, proving that the building of which they had formed part had been destroyed by fire. I dug also in several directions in this part of the mound, and in many places came upon the calcined remains of walls.

On the third day, I opened a trench in the high conical mound, but found only fragments of inscribed bricks. I also dug at the bank of the north side of the chamber first explored, in the expectation of coming upon other walls beyond, but unsuccessfully. As my chief aim was to ascertain the existence, as soon as possible, of sculptures, all my workmen were moved to the S. W. corner, where the many remains of walls already discovered evidently belonging to the same edifice, promised speedier success. I continued the excavations in this part of the mound until the 13th, still finding inscriptions, but no sculptures.

Some days having elapsed since my departure from Mosul, and the experiment having been so far successful, it was time to turn to the town and acquaint the pashaw, who had, no doubt, ready heard of my proceedings, with the object of my researches. I started, therefore, early in the morning of the 14th, and galloped to Mosul in about three hours.

I found the town in great commotion. In the first place, his excellency had, on the previous day, entrapped his subjects by the reports of his death, in the manner already described, and was now actively engaged in seeking pecuniary compensation for the insult he had received in the rejoicings of the population. In the second, the British vice-consul having purchased an old building to store his stock in trade, the cadi, a fanatic and man of infamous character, had given out that the Franks had formed a design of buying up the whole of Turkey, and was endeavoring to raise a riot, which was to end in the demolition of the consulate and other acts of violence. I called (Page 20) on the pashaw, and, in the first place, congratulated him on his speedy recovery; a compliment which he received with a grim smile of satisfaction. He then introduced the subject of the cadi, and the disturbance he had created. "Does that ill-conditioned fellow," exclaimed he, "think that he has Sheriff Pashaw (his excellency's immediate predecessor) to deal with, that he must be planning a riot in the town? When I was at Siwas the ulema tried to excite the people because I encroached upon a burying-ground. But I made them eat dirt! Wallah! I took every gravestone and built up the castle walls with them." He pretended at first to be ignorant of the excavations at Nimroud; but subsequently thinking that he would convict me of prevarication in my answers to his questions as to the amount of treasure discovered, pulled out of his writing tray a scrap of paper, as dingy as that produced by Awad, in which was also preserved an almost invisible particle of gold leaf. This, he said, had been brought to him by the commander of the irregular troops stationed at Selamiyah, who had been watching my proceedings. I suggested that he should name an agent to be present as long as I worked at Nimroud, to take charge of all the precious metals that might. be discovered. He promised to write on the subject to the chief of the irregulars; but offered no objection to the continuation of my researches.

Reports of the wealth extracted from the ruins had already reached Mosul, and had excited the cupidity and jealousy of the cadi and principal inhabitants of the place. It was evident that I should have to contend against a formidable opposition; but as the pashaw had not, as yet, openly objected to my proceedings, I hired some Nestorian Chaldeans, who had left their mountains for the winter to seek employment in Mosul, and sent them to Nimroud. At the same time I engaged agents to explore several mounds in the neighborhood of the town, hoping to ascertain the existence of sculptured buildings in some parts of the country, before steps were taken to interrupt me.

(Page 21) While at Mosul, Mormous, an Arab of the tribe of Haddedeen, informed me that figures had been accidentally uncovered in a mound near the village of Tel Kef. As he offered to take me to the place, we rode out together; but he only pointed out the site of an old quarry, with a few rudely hewn stones. Such disappointments were daily occurring; and I wearied myself in scouring the country to see remains which had been most minutely described to me as sculptures, or slabs covered with writing, and which generally proved to be the ruin of some modern building, or an early tombstone inscribed with Arabic characters.

The mounds, which I directed to be opened, were those of Baasheikha (of considerable size), Baazani, Karamles, Karakush, Yara, and Jerraiyah. Connected with the latter ruin many strange tales were current in the country. It was said at on its lofty conical mound formerly stood a temple of black stone, held in great reverence by the Yezidis, or worshipers of the devil; its walls covered with all manner of sculptured figures, and with inscriptions in an unknown language. When the Bey of Rowandiz fell upon the Yezidis, and massacred those who were unable to escape, he destroyed this house of idols; but the ruins of the building, it was declared, had only been covered by small accumulation of rubbish. The lower part of an Assyrian figure, in relief on basalt, dug up, it was said, in the mound, was actually brought to me; but I had afterward reason to suspect that it was discovered at Khorsabad. Excavations were carried on for some time at Jerraiyah, but no remains of the Yezidi temple were brought to light.

Having finished my arrangements in. Mosul, I returned to Nimroud on the 19th. During my absence, my cawass had carried the excavations along the back of a wall, in the S. W. corner of the mound,[2.5] and had discovered an entrance or doorway. [2.6] Being anxious to make as much progress as possible, increased my workmen to thirty, and distributed them in (Page 22) three parties. By opening long trenches at right angles in various directions, we came upon the top of a wall, [2.7] built of slabs with inscriptions similar to those already described. One, however, was reversed, and was covered with characters, exceeding in size any I had yet seen. On examining the inscription carefully I found that it corresponded with those of the chamber in the N. W. corner; but as the edges of this, as well as of all the other slabs hitherto discovered in the S. W. ruins, had been cut away to make the stones fit into the wall, several letters had been destroyed. From these facts it was evident that materials taken from another building had been used in the construction of the one we were now exploring; but as yet it could not be ascertained whether the face or the back of the slabs had been uncovered; for the general plan of the edifice could not be determined until the heap of rubbish and earth under which it was buried had been removed. The excavations were now carried on but slowly. The soil, mixed with sun-dried and baked bricks, pottery, and fragments of alabaster, offered considerable resistance to the tools of the workmen; and when loosened, could only be removed in baskets to be thrown over the edge of the mound. The Chaldeans from the mountains, strong and hardy men, could alone wield the pick; the Arabs were employed in carrying away the earth. Spades could not be used, and there were no other means, than those I had adopted, to clear away the rubbish from the ruins. A person standing on the mound could see no remains of building until he approached the edge of the trenches, into which the workmen descended by steps, where parts of the walls were exposed to view.

The Abou-Salman and Tai Arabs continuing their depredations in the plains of Nimroud and surrounding country, I deemed it prudent to remove from Naifa, where I had hitherto resided, to Selamiyah. This village is built on a rising ground near the Tigris, and was formerly a place of some importance, (Page 23) being mentioned at a very early period as a market-town by the Arab geographers, who generally connect it with the ruins of Athur or Nimroud. It occupies an ancient site, and in long lines of mounds, inclosing the village, can be traced the walls of an Assyrian town, or more probably of one of the suburbs of the capital. Even five years ago Selamiyah was a flourishing place, and could furnish 150 well armed horsemen. The pashaw had, however, plundered it; and the inhabitants had fled to the mountains or into the neighboring province of Baghdad. Ten miserable huts now stood in the midst of ruins of bazars and streets surrounding a kasr or palace, belonging to the old hereditary pashaws of Mosul, well built of alabaster, but rapidly falling into decay. I had intended to take possession of this building, which was occupied by a few hytas or irregular troops; but the rooms were in such a dilapidated condition that the low mud hut of the kiayah, or chief of the village, appeared to be both safer and warmer. I accordingly spread my carpet in one of its corners, and giving the owner a few piastres to finish other dwelling-places which he had commenced, established myself for the winter. The premises, which were speedily completed, consisted of four hovels, surrounded by a mud wall, and roofed with reeds and boughs of trees. I occupied half of the largest habitation, the other half being appropriated for beasts of the plow, and various domestic animals. We were separated by a wall; in which, however, numerous apertures served as a means of communication. These I studiously endeavored for some time to block up. A second hut was devoted to the wives, children, and poultry of my host; a third served as kitchen and servants' hall: the fourth was converted into a stall for my horses. In the inclosure formed by the buildings and outer wall, the few sheep and goats which had escaped the rapacity of the pashaw, congregated during the night, and kept up a continual bleating and coughing until they were milked and turned out to pasture at daybreak.

The roofs not being constructed to exclude the winter rains (Page 24) now setting in, it required some exercise of ingenuity to escape the torrent which descended into my apartment. I usually passed the night on these occasions crouched up in a corner, or under a rude table which I had constructed. The latter, having been surrounded by trenches, to carry of the accumulating waters, generally afforded the best shelter. My cawass, who was a Constantinopolitan, complained bitterly of the hardships he was compelled to endure, and I had some difficulty in prevailing upon my servants to remain with me.

The present inhabitants of Selamiyah, and of most of the villages in this part of the pashawlic of Mosul, are Turcomans, descendants of tribes brought by the early Turkish sultans from the north of Asia Minor, to people a country which had been laid waste by repeated massacres and foreign invasions. In this portion of the Ottoman empire, there is scarcely, except in Mosul and the Mountains, a vestige of the ancient population. The great tribes which inhabit the desert were brought from the Jebel Shammar, in Nedjd, within the memory of man. The inhabitants of the plains to the east of the Tigris are mostly Turcomans and Kurds, mixed with Arabs, or with Yezidis, who are strangers in the land, and whose origin can not easily be determined. A few Chaldean and Jacobite Christians, scattered in Mosul and the neighboring villages, or dwelling in the most inaccessible part of the mountains, their places of refuge from the devastating bands of Tamerlane, are probably the only descendants of that great people which once swayed, from these plains, the half of Asia.

The yuz-bashi, or captain of the irregular troops, one Daoud Agha, a native of the north of Asia Minor, called upon me as soon as I was established in my new quarters. Like most men of his class, acknowledged freebooters,[2.8] he was frank and (Page 25) intelligent. He tendered me his services, entertained me with his adventures, and planned hunting expeditions. A few presents secured his adherence, and he proved himself afterward a very useful and faithful ally.

I had now to ride three miles every morning to the mound; and my workmen, who were afraid, on account of the Arabs, live at Naifa, returned, after the day's labor, to Selamiyah. The excavations were however carried on as actively as the means at my disposal would permit. An entrance, or doorway, had now been completely cleared, and the backs of several inscribed slabs had been uncovered.[2.9] A corner-stone which had evidently been brought from another building, was richly ornamented with flowers and scroll-work in relief; but there were no sculptures; nor could any idea be yet formed of the relative position of the walls. I therefore ordered a trench to be opened from the doorway into the interior of the mound, presuming that we should ultimately come to the opposite side of the chamber, to which, it appeared probable, we had found the entrance. After removing a large accumulation of earth mixed with charcoal, charred wood, and broken bricks, we reached the top of a new wall on the afternoon of the 28th November. In order to ascertain whether we were in the inside of a chamber, the workmen were directed to clear away the earth from both sides of the slabs. The south face was unsculptured, (Page 26) but the first stroke of the pick on the opposite side, disclosed the top of a bas relief. The Arabs were no less excited than myself by the discovery; and notwithstanding a heavy fall of rain, working until dark, they completely exposed to view two slabs.[2.10]

On each slab were two bas-reliefs, divided by an inscription. In the upper compartment of the largest was a battle scene, in which were represented two chariots, each drawn by richly caparisoned horses at full speed, and containing a group of three warriors, the principal of whom was beardless and evidently an eunuch. This figure was clothed in a complete suit of mail of metal scales, embossed in the center, and apparently attached to a shirt of felt or linen. This shirt was confined at the waist by a girdle. On his head was a pointed helmet, from which fell lappets, covered with scales, protecting the ears, lower part of the face, and neck, the whole head-dress resembling that of the early Normans. His left hand grasped a bow at full stretch, while his right drew the string, with the arrow ready to be discharged. The left arm was encircled by a guard, probably of leather, to protect it from the arrow. His sword was in a sheath, the end of which was elegantly adorned with the figures of two lions. In the same chariot were a charioteer urging on the horses with reins and whip, and a shield-bearer who warded off the shafts of the enemy with a circular shield, which, like those of Solomon, and of the servants or shield-bearers of Hadad-ezer, king of Zobah, may have been of beaten gold.[2.11] The chariots were low, rounded at the top, and edged by a rich molding or border, probably inlaid with precious metals or painted. To the sides were suspended two highly ornamented quivers, each containing, beside the arrows, a hatchet and axe. The wheels had six spokes. The end of the pole, formed by the head of a bull, was attached to the fore part of the chariot by a singular contrivance, of which neither the use nor the (Page 28) material can be determined from the sculptures. It appears to have been intended both as an ornament and as a support for the pole, and to have been a light frame work, covered with linen or silk; its breadth almost precludes the idea of its having been of any other material. It was elaborately painted or embroidered with sacred emblems and elegant devices. The chariot, which was probably of wood and open behind, was drawn by three horses, whose trappings, decorated with a profusion of tassels and rosettes, must have been of the most costly description. They may have been of the looms of Dedan, whose merchants, in the days of old, supplied the East with "precious clothes for chariots."[2.12] The archer, who evidently belonged to the conquering nation, was pursuing a flying enemy. Beneath the chariot-wheels were scattered the conquered and the dying, and an archer, about to be trodden down, was represented as endeavoring to check the speed of the advancing horses. The costume of the vanquished differed entirely from that of the Assyrian warriors. They wore short tunics descending to their knees, and their hair was confined by a simple fillet round the temples.

I observed with surprise the elegance and richness of the ornaments, the faithful and delicate delineation of the limbs and muscles, both in the men and horses, and the knowledge of art displayed in the grouping of the figures, and in the general composition. In all these respects, as well as in costume, this sculpture appeared to me not only to differ from, but to surpass, the bas-reliefs of Khorsabad. I traced also, in the character used in the inscription, a marked difference from that on the monument discovered by M. Botta. Unfortunately, the slab had been exposed to fire, and was so much injured that its removal was hopeless. The edges had, moreover, been cut away, to the injury of some of the figures and of the inscription; and as the next slab was reversed, it was evident that both had been brought from another building.

(Page 29) The lower bas relief on the same slab represented the siege of a castle, or walled city. To the left were two warriors, armed with a short sword and circular shield, and dressed in a tunic, edged by a fringe of tassels, and confined at the waist by a broad girdle. Each carried a quiver at his back; and a bow on his left arm. They wore the pointed helmets before described. The foremost warrior was ascending a ladder placed against the castle. Three turrets, with angular battlements, rose above walls similarly ornamented. In the first turret were two warriors, one in the act of discharging an arrow, the other raising a shield and casting a stone at the assailants, from whom the besieged were distinguished by their head-dress, - a simple fillet binding the hair above the temples. The second turret was occupied by a slinger preparing his sling. In the interval between this turret and the third, and over an arched gateway, was a female figure, known by long hair descending upon her shoulders in ringlets. Her right hand was raised as if in the act of asking for mercy. In the third turret were two more of the besieged, the first discharging an arrow, the second elevating his shield and endeavoring with a torch to burn an instrument resembling a catapult, which had been brought up to the wall by an inclined plane apparently built of boughs of trees and rubbish. These figures were out of all proportion when compared with the size of the building. A warrior with a pointed helmet, bending on one knee, and holding a torch in his right hand, was setting fire to the gate of the castle, while another in full armor was forcing stones from the walls with an instrument, probably of iron, resembling blunt spear. Between them was a wounded man falling head-long from the battlements.

The adjoining slab, which was angular in shape and formed a corner, was much injured, the greater part having been cut away to reduce it to convenient dimensions. The upper part, or the lower as reversed, was occupied by two warriors; the foremost in a pointed helmet, riding on one horse and leading a second; the other, without helmet, standing in a chariot, (Page 30) and holding the reins loosely in his hands. The horses had been destroyed, and the marks of the chisel were visible on many parts of the slab, the sculpture having been in some places carefully defaced. The lower bas-relief represented the battlements and towers of a castle. A woman stood on the walls tearing her hair in token of grief. Beneath, by the side of a stream, denoted by numerous undulating lines, crouched a fisherman drawing a fish from the water. This slab had been exposed to fire like that adjoining, and had sustained too much injury to be removed.

As I was meditating in the evening over my discovery, Daoud Agha entered, and seating himself near me, delivered a long speech, to the effect, that he was a servant of the pashaw, who was again the slave of the sultan; and that servants were bound to obey the commands of their master, however disagreeable and unjust they might be. I saw at once to what this exordium was about to lead, and was prepared for the announcement, that he had received orders from Mosul to stop the excavations by threatening those who were inclined to work for me. On the following morning, therefore, I rode to the town, and waited upon his excellency. He pretended to be taken by surprise, disclaimed having given any such orders, and directed his secretary to write at once to the commander of the irregular troops, who was to give me every assistance rather than throw impediments in my way. He promised to let me have the letter in the afternoon before I returned to Selamiyah; but an officer came to me soon after, and stated that as the pashaw was unwilling to detain me he would forward it during the night. I rode back to the village, and acquainted Daoud Agha with the result of my visit. About midnight, however, he returned to me, and declared that a horseman had just brought him more stringent orders than any he had yet received, and that on no account was he to permit me to carry on the excavation.

Surprised at this inconsistency, I returned to Mosul early next day, and again called upon the pashaw. "It was with deep (Page 31) regret," said he, "I learnt, after your departure yesterday, that the mound in which you are digging had been used as a burying-ground by Mussulmans, and was covered with their graves; now you are aware that by the law it is forbidden to disturb a tomb, and the cadi and mufti have already made representations to me on the subject." "In the first place," replied I, "being pretty well acquainted with the mound, I can state that no graves have been disturbed; in the second, after the wise and firm "politica" which your excellency exhibited at Siwas, gravestones would present no difficulty. Please God, the cadi and mufti have profited by the lesson which your excellency gave to the ill-mannered ulema of that city." "In Siwas," returned he, immediately understanding my meaning, "I had Mussulmans to deal with, and there was tanzimat, [2.13] but here we have only Kurds and Arabs, and Wallah! they are beasts. No, I can not allow you to proceed; you are my dearest and most intimate friend; if any thing happens to you, what grief should I not suffer; your life is more valuable than old stones; besides, the responsibility would fall upon my head." Finding that the pashaw had resolved to interrupt my proceedings, I pretended to acquiesce in his answer, and reqested that a cawass of his own might be sent with me to Nimroud, as I wished to draw the sculptures and copy the inscriptions which had already been uncovered. To this he consented, and ordered an officer to accompany me.

On my return to Selamiyah there was little difficulty inducing the pashaw's cawass to permit a few workmen to guard the sculptures during the day; and as Daoud Agha considered that this functionary's presence relieved him from any further responsibility, he no longer interfered with me. Wishing to ascertain the existence of the graves, and also to draw one of the bas-reliefs, which had been uncovered, I rode to the ruins on the following morning, accompanied by the (Page 32) hytas and their chief, who were going their usual rounds in search of plundering Arabs. Daoud Agha confessed to me on our way that he had received orders to make graves on the mound, and that his troops had been employed for two nights in bringing stones from distant villages for that purpose.[2.14] "We have destroyed more real tombs of the true believers," said he, "in making sham ones, than you could have defiled between the Zab and Selamiyah. We have killed our horses and ourselves in carrying those accursed stones." A steady rain setting in, I left the horsemen, and returned to the village.

In the evening Daoud Agha brought back with him a prisoner and two of his followers severely wounded. He had fallen in with a party of horsemen under Sheikh Abd-ur-rahman of the Abou-Salman Arabs, whose object in crossing the Zab had been to plunder me as I worked at the mound. After a short engagement, the Arabs were compelled to recross the river.

I continued to employ a few men to open trenches by way of experiment, and was not long in finding other sculptures. Near the western edge of the mound were discovered the lower part of several colossal figures, at the foot of the S. E. corner a crouching lion, rudely carved in black basalt, and in the center a pair of gigantic winged bulls, the head and half of the wings of which had been destroyed. On the backs of the slabs, on which the bulls were sculptured in high relief, were inscriptions in the arrow-headed character. The remains of two small winged lions forming the entrance into a chamber, and a bas-relief nine feet in height, representing a human figure raising the right hand, and carrying a branch with three flowers resembling the poppy, in the left, were also uncovered. But these afforded no clew to the nature of the buildings, of which only detached and unconnected walls had as yet been exposed.

The experiment had now been fairly made; there was no longer any doubt of the existence not only of sculptures and (Page 33) inscriptions, but even of large edifices in the interior of the mound Nimroud. I lost no time, therefore, in acquainting Sir Stratford Canning with my discovery, and in urging the necessity of a firman, or order from the Porte, which would prevent any future interference on the part of the authorities, or the inhabitants of the country.

It was now nearly Christmas, and as it was desirable to remove from the mound the tombs, which had been made by the pashaw's orders, and others, more genuine, which had since been found, I came to an understanding on the subject with Daoud Agha. I covered over the sculptures brought to light, and withdrew altogether from Nimroud, leaving an agent at Selamiyah .

On entering Mosul on the morning of the 18th of December, I found the whole population in a ferment of joy. A Tatar had that morning brought from Constantinople the welcome news that the Porte, at length alive to the wretched condition of the province, and to the misery of the inhabitants, had disgraced the governor, and had named Ismail Pashaw, a young major-general of the new school, to carry on affairs until Hafiz Pashaw, who had been appointed to succeed Keritli Oglu, could reach his government.

Ismail Pashaw, who had been for some time in command of the troops at Diarbekir, had gained a great reputation for justice among the Mussulmans, and for tolerance among the Christians. Consequently his appointment had given much satisfaction to the people of Mosul, who were prepared to receive him with a demonstration. However, he slipped into the town during the night, some time before he had been expected. On the following morning a change had taken place at the palace, and Mohammed Pashaw, with his followers, were reduced to extremities. The dragoman of the consulate, who had business to transact with the late governor, found him sitting in a dilapidated chamber, through which the rain penetrated without hindrance. "Thus it is," said he, "with God's creatures. Yesterday all those dogs (Page 34) were kissing my feet; to-day every one, and every thing, falls upon me, even the rain!"

Meanwhile the state of the country rendering the continuation of my researches at Nimroud almost impossible, I determined to proceed to Baghdad, to make arrangements for the removal of the sculptures at a future period.


[2.1] Literally, "tooth-money."

[2.2] To eat money, i. e. to get money unlawfully or by pillage, is a common expression in the East.

[2.3] Mr. Ross will perhaps permit me to acknowledge in a note the valuable assistance I received from him, during my labors in Assyria. His knowledge of the natives, and intimate acquaintance with the resources of the country, enabled him to contribute much to the success of my undertaking - while to his friendship I am indebted for many pleasant hours, which would have been passed wearily in a land of strangers.

[2.4] Chamber A, plan 3

[2.5] Wall e, plan 2

[2.6] Entrance d, same plan.

[2.7] Wall m, same plan.

[2.8] The irregular cavalry (hytas as they are called in this part of Turkey, and bashi-bozuks in Roumelia and Anatolia) are collected from all classes and provinces. A man known for his courage and daring is named hyta-bashi, or chief of the hytas, and is furnished with teskeres or orders for pay and provisions for so many horsemen, from four or five hundred to a thousand or more. He collects all the vagrants and freebooters he can find to make up his number. They must provide their own arms and horses, although sometimes they are furnished with them by the hyta-bashi, who deducts a part of their pay until he reimburses himself. The best hytas are Albanians and Lazes, and they form a very effective body of irregular cavalry. Their pay at Mosul is small, amounting to about eight shillings a month; in other provinces it is considerably more. They are quartered on the villages, and are the terror of the inhabitants, whom they plunder and ill-treat as they think fit. When a hyta-bashi has established a reputation for himself, his followers are numerous and devoted. He wanders about the provinces, and like a condottiere of the middle ages, sells his services, and those of his troops, to the pashaw who offers most pay, and the best prospects of plunder. Since the introduction of the tanzimat, or reformed system of government, the number of irregular troops has been greatly reduced, and the hytas are no longer able to ill-treat the inhabitants of villages as formerly.

[2.9] Wall and entrance d, plan 2.

[2.10] Nos. 1 and 2, wall f, plan 2.

[2.11] 1 Kings 10:17; 2 Sam. 8: 7.

[2.12] Ezekiel 27:20.

[2.13] The reformed system, introduced into most provinces of Turkey, had not yet been extended to Mosul and Baghdad.

[2.14] In Arabia, the graves are merely marked by large stones placed upright at the head and feet, and in a heap over the body.


Copyright (c) 1997 by Bruce J. Butterfield

No restrictions are intended for non-profit use