Metropolitan Museum of Art

The colossal mustachioed sphinx shown here (the entire image appears later in this article) was excavated in the late 1840s by the British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard (1817‒1894), shown in the next photo in native Bakhtiyari dress. Layard identified the site where this human-headed winged lion was found—modern Nimrud—as biblical Nineveh. In fact, he was excavating the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (883‒859 B.C.) in ancient Kalhu (called Calah in the Bible). Layard later moved north to excavate the actual site of Nineveh at Mosul. Layard shipped his finds down the Tigris River to Baghdad, where they were examined by Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (see photo of Henry Creswicke Rawlinson), a major general with the British East India Company, who had already helped decipher Persian cuneiform (and who, in the early 1850s, would decipher Akkadian cuneiform, the script used by the Babylonians and the Assyrians). Rawlinson (1810‒1895) took delight in the inscribed tablets, but he thought the sculptures had little artistic value—they were “crude & cramped” and did not “rank very highly as art.”