Probably from the South West Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh
Height 67cm, lower right hand corner restored
Date: late 8th century BC
NM Inv. 51.323; Discovered by Sir Austen Henry Layard around 1840; purchased for the Museum in 1951
While the Biblical authors mention the area of Assyria in their accounts, it was not until the 1800s that other evidence became available from this great civilisation. Excavations in the "land of Assur", particularly by Sir Austen Henry Layard in the 1840s, captured the imagination of the Europeans. Digging uncovered vast palaces, extraordinary monuments and written documents of many kinds.
This limestone relief (Inv. 53.323), depicting two archers, was one of Layard's discoveries, and probably came from the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Kouyunjik (Nineveh) in Mespotamia. Nineveh was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC, and the palace was pillaged and burned, and lay buried until Layard excavated it between 1847 and 1851. The walls of about seventy rooms in this palace were lined with limestone slabs carved in low relief with scenes commemorating Sennacherib's royal exploits. These reliefs are also a rich source of information about the dress, equipment and military tactics of the Assyrians and their adversaries.
The most famous reliefs excavated from the palace (from room XXXVI) depicted the siege of Lachish in Judea, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 18:13-14. The reliefs became the first archaeological confirmation of an event from the Bible. The palace also yielded written evidence that agreed with the Biblical accounts that the siege was unsuccessful, and also that thirty talents of gold were paid as tribute by Hezekiah of Judah to Sennacherib. Later, when the British Museum employed George Smith to translate its tablets from the palace, he discovered the fragmentary account of the Deluge. Owing to the uproar resulting from this discovery, he was immediately dispatched to Nineveh to seek further portions of the account, and incredibly he did. This event heralded a period of huge interest in Assyriology.