From Nineveh and Babylon by A. H. Layard

Austen Henry Layard’s drawings, accomplished under difficult field conditions, preserve a precious record of the palace reliefs at Nineveh and Nimrud. For many of the Mosul alabaster slabs, the drawings by Layard and others are all that remain to us. Although some of the carved panels were removed and carried by ship to safety in the British Museum, others were too damaged to transport or were lost in passage.

To reach a room or gallery in the palaces, Layard’s workmen tunneled into the earth mound that covered the Assyrian cities. The earth excavated from the tunnels was passed to the surface through large round holes cut into the tunnel ceilings, holes that also served to bring in natural light. In this dim and shifting illumination, Layard drew freehand the intricate details of the reliefs that preserved Assyrian history in stone. When appropriate, Layard added red, blue and black watercolors to his drawings to show the traces of paint that he observed on some slabs.

Sketches made by a visitor, the Reverend Caesar Solomon Malan, give us a glimpse of Layard’s excavations. In this one, we see Layard drawing the reliefs in the Archive Chamber of Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh. The gaping entrance to one of his tunnels appears in the background, at center.