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On digging for the foundation of new houses, sculptured stones were very often uncovered. M. Botta, though often deceived by similar stories, sent an agent with one or two men to test the truth of this information. After a little opposition from the inhabitants, they obtained permission to sink a well in the mound; when, at a small distance from the surface, they came upon the top of a wall. On digging deeper they found that the wall was constructed of sculptured slabs of gypsum. M. Botta, having been informed of this discovery, at once “directed a wider trench to be formed, and to be carried in the direction of the wall. He soon found that he had opened a chamber which was connected with others, and constructed of slabs of gypsum, covered with sculptured representations of battles, sieges, and similar events. His wonder may be easily imagined. A new history had been suddenly opened to him. The records of an unknown people were before him. .... The art shown in the sculptures, the dresses of the figures, their arms, and the objects which accompanied them, were all new to him, and afforded no clue to the epoch of the erection of the edifice, and to the people who were its founders. Numerous inscriptions were cut between the bas-reliefs, and evidently contained the explanation of the events thus recorded in sculpture. They were in the cuneiform or arrow-headed character.” Though the meaning of the inscriptions could not then be made out, it was evident that these relics were the work of a very ancient and a very civilized people ; and from the geographical position of the remains it was not unnatural to refer them to the Assyrian empire, and to the great city of Nineveh. This was probably the first edifice belonging to that kingdom, that had been exposed to view since the fall of the Assyrian empire.
M. Botta soon discovered that this edifice had unfortunately been exposed to the action of fire. The gypsum, deprived of its water of crystallization, as soon as it was exposed to the air, crumbled into powder. Scarcely could the brittle slabs be held in a state of cohesion long enough to permit a rough sketch to be taken of these early and only memorials of a great nation of their home-life, their worship, their succession of kings, their battles, and their victories. The same fate befell almost every memorial that was discovered in this mound,-a general conflagration seeming to have ruined all that was concealed within it. This reminds us of the statement of the ancient writers, that when the effeminate Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, found that there was no hope of victory over the besieging armies, and that his capital was about to be given up to destruction, he erected a vast pile of timber covering four acres, in which he deposited all his riches, with his wife and his concubines, and finally lay down himself in the place prepared for him ; and the flames having been applied to the vast pyre, he was consumed with his palace, leaving no monument but the crumbling remains which now, after twenty-two centuries, were again exposed to the light of day. Very possibly Khorsabad might have covered the palace of Sardanapalus.
M. Botta having communicated an account of his discoveries to the French Academy, ample funds were assigned him by the government, for the purpose of continuing his investigations. He pursued them till the beginning of the year 1845, when the uncovering of this palace was completed, and he returned to Europe with a rich collection of inscriptions and specimens of Assyrian sculpture. The investigations of M. Botta did not extend beyond the mound of Khorsabad.
Mr. Layard, encouraged by the successful endeavors of the French consul, was anxious to pursue these investigations, and especially in the largest mound, called Nimroud, nearly opposite Mosul. Though M. Botta had labored here three months with but slight success, Mr. Layard was impressed with the idea that adequate labor expended on this mound would bring to light objects of great interest to history and to the scientific world. Quite unexpectedly he received letters from Sir Stratford Canning, offering to be responsible for the expense of excavations for that purpose to a limited extent, and expressing the belief that, should these excavations be productive of important results, adequate means would be provided from some source to continue them.
Encouraged by such patronage, Mr. Layard instantly set about the fulfilment of so important and honorable a commission. His first step, on reaching Mosul, was to present his letters to the governor of the province, that he might enjoy his aid and protection. This governor, Mohammed Pasha, was a singular person. He had only one eye, and one ear. He was short and fat, and deeply marked by the small-pox; awkward in gestures and harsh in voice. On taking possession of his government, he had revived many of the odious usages times. He particularly insisted on a money compensation, levied on the villages where he was entertained, for the wear and tear of his teeth in masticating the food furnished him by the inhabitants. Having rendered himself unpopular by extravagant demands on the property of his subjects, he took the strange fancy of pretending to be taken suddenly ill, one
afternoon, and was carried half dead to his palace. The next morning when his health was inquired after, the only answer given by his servants was an ominous shake of the head, which they were left to interpret as they best could. In the meantime he had stationed spies in every part of Mosul, that he might learn the effect of the news of his demise. The people were given up to general rejoicing, when suddenly at noon he appeared in the midst of them, and proceeded by pecuniary mulct to punish them for their premature gladness. But notwithstanding his eccentricities, he did Mr. Layard no injury, nor interfered with his operations.
Mr. Layard was able to secure the help of a considerable number of Arabs, and proceeded to the work of excavation at once. Examining the remains of pottery and bricks, and the handfuls of rubbish brought him by the Arabs, and especially a sculptured fragment found on the earth, he was convinced that he should find interesting remains in the mound by digging, and proceeded to search for the most interesting spot to commence. His principal servant soon led him to a place where a piece of alabaster projected above the ground, which could not be started from its bed. On digging downward, it was found to be the upper part of a large slab. In the course of the morning, thirteen slabs were discovered, united together, except that one was missing in the northwest corner. These slabs formed a chamber; and where the slab was missing, was doubtless the entrance. He proceeded to dig down the face of the stones, and soon found an inscription in the middle of the slab. Similar inscriptions were found on every one. In the course of the day half the workmen were removed to the southwest corner of the mound, where a wall was almost immediately found, bearing the same kind of inscriptions. Here the slabs bore the marks of having been exposed to the action of fire. The day following, having cleared the chamber of rubbish, he found it to be a room built of slabs, eight feet high, and from four to six feet wide, closely fitted together. The room was paved with similar slabs, though smaller, and covered on both sides with inscriptions. These slabs were laid in bitumen, which had received a sharp impress of the inscriptions,-proving that the slabs were laid into it when it was in a liquid state. From this chamber other walls were found to branch out at different angles. Some of the slabs covering them were evidently taken from more ancient buildings,—the edges of the stones, with the inscriptions, being trimmed off, and the face of the stones having been reversed. The Orientals are in the habit of digging among the rubbish of ancient edifices, to obtain materials for building. The corner-stone of the structure now discovered was plainly of this character. It was richly ornamented with carving, representing scroll-work and flowers.
Pursuing his investigations, Mr. Layard came upon a wall overlaid with slabs covered with bas-reliefs,-a discovery apparently as exciting to the Arab workmen as it was to himself. The two slabs first exposed to view were ornamented with two bas-reliefs each, one above the other; and each sculpture was encircled by a band of inscriptions. The subject on the upper part of the first slab was a battle-scene. In this picture there were two chariots, drawn by horses richly caparisoned, each chariot being occupied by three warriors. The principal person in each group was clad in mail, with a pointed helmet on his head. The left hand grasped a bow at full stretch, and the right held an arrow ready to be projected. The second warrior, holding the reins and whip, urged onward the galloping steeds. The third held a shield for the defense of the principal figure. Under the horses' feet, and scattered upon the relief, were the conquered, wounded by the arrows of the victors. The costume and ornaments were very rich; and the grouping of the figures, and the delicacy with which the limbs and muscles both of the men and horses were delineated, indicated a high degree of taste and knowledge, and of artistic skill.
The lower sculpture on this slab represented the siege of a castle or walled city. To the left were two warriors, each having a circular shield in one hand and a short sword in the other. A quiver was suspended at the back, and the left arm passed through the bow, which hung at the side ready for use. The first warrior was ascending a ladder placed against the wall. Three turrets rose above the walls with angular battlements. In the first were two warriors, one discharging an arrow at the assailants, and the other holding a shield in one hand, and with the other casting a stone at the enemy. In the second turret was a slinger preparing his sling. In the interval between the second and third turrets, and over an arched gateway, was the figure of a woman with the right hand raised, as if in the act of asking for mercy. In the third turret were two warriors, one discharging an arrow, the other endeavoring with a torch to fire a warlike machine of the enemy, which had been brought to bear upon the walls. Besides these figures, a warrior bending on one knee was holding a lighted torch against one of the castle gates, for the purpose of setting it on fire, and another with an instrument resembling a blunted
spear was forcing the stones out of the foundation. Between them a wounded man was falling headlong from the walls. On the second slab, the upper sculpture represented two warriors, the one riding on a horse and leading a second, the other standing in a chariot and holding the reins loosely in his hands. In the lower figure was a castle two stories high, with many towers, and a woman standing on the walls and tearing her hair, as if to manifest her grief. Beneath was a stream, represented by several undulating lines, on the banks of which stood a fisherman drawing from the water a fish. This sculpture reminds us strongly of a prophecy against Egypt, in Isaiah xix. 8: “The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.”
These sculptured slabs we have described at full length; and they may be regarded as specimens of all the rest, to which we shall allude hereafter more briefly. On the various slabs found in the progress of Mr. Layard's investigations were portrayed figures illustrating the arts, manners, and employments of the Assyrians; their architecture, their strategy, their dress, their worship, their domestic life, and their progress in science and the arts. It is especially through these remains that we are introduced with unerring precision to a knowledge of the people of that long-buried capital.
As Mr. Layard proceeded in his work, new objects of interest perpetually rewarded his efforts. Soon after the discoveries detailed above, he found a crouching lion, carved in basalt, on a slab which had fallen out of its place. In the centre of the mound he uncovered a pair of gigantic winged bulls, of which one half of the wings and the head had been destroyed. The slabs on which they were carved were fourteen feet in length, and probably, when intact, as many feet in height. Part of a pair of small winged lions was also discovered, and lastly a human figure nine feet high.
The strange combinations of animals of different classes were without doubt the expressions of ideas. The slabs containing these creatures were placed near the entrances, as guardians, or they were on the walls of temples, as objects of religious worship; hence we can easily imagine that they were not without signification. A lion with wings might have indicated the union of strength with swiftness, perhaps omnipresence. A winged bull might be a symbol of wisdom, strength, stability, and the power of rapid locomotion or self-translation from one place to another,-attributes of a