Layard first identified Nimrud as the site of ancient Nineveh; in fact, it is the site of the Assyrian city of Kalhu, called Calah in the Bible (Genesis 10:11–12). He apparently identified Nimrud with the biblical character Nimrod, who, after founding Babel, “went into Assyria, and built Nineveh” (Genesis 10:11). Layard later moved north to excavate at Mosul, the actual site of Nineveh.


These letters, now in the British Library in London, provide a fascinating glimpse of the very first reactions to the Assyrian discoveries.


See Jacob Rothenberg, “Lord Elgin’s Marbles: How Sculptures from the Parthenon Got to the British Museum,” AO 01:02. Another prominent 18th-century German scholar, Johann Gottfried Herder, objected to the notion that Greek art, or any body of art, could provide a universal standard to which all traditions should aspire. He argued that Egyptian art, for instance, was an independent body of art produced for its own reasons; it therefore had to be understood on its own terms, not by comparison with Greek art.


Ezekiel lived in the early sixth century B.C., during the Babylonian Exile. Here he is referring back to the earlier period of the Divided Monarchy, when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel (late eighth century B.C.) as well as Babylon.



Austen Henry Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains (London: John Murray, 1849), pp. 66–67.


Layard, Nineveh, pp. 81–85.


British Library 38977, 25–27, dated August 5, 1846.


Frederick Nathaniel Bohrer, “Assyria as Art: A Perspective on the Early Reception of Ancient Near Eastern Artefacts,” in Culture and History 4 (1989), p. 20.


Athenaeum (1850), p. 1121.


British Library 38977, 219–224, dated March 31, 1847.


Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, Notes on the Early History of Babylonia (London: John W. Parker & Son, 1854).


John Philip Newman, The Thrones and Palaces of Babylon and Nineveh (New York: Harper and Bros., 1876), p. 360.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poems (London: Everyman’s Library, 1974).


Layard, Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (London: John Murray, 1853), pp. 201–202.