Erich Lessing

A thundering battering ram threatens to topple a guard tower during the Assyrian assault on Lachish in 701 B.C.E. The city’s inhabitants mount a furious defense, hurling firebrands (burning pieces of wood) in hopes of setting the battering ram on fire (a large “spoon,” shown at left, douses any flames that might erupt on the battering ram). The outcome of the attack is depicted at lower right: The Judahites of Lachish are marched off to exile. This battle scene appears as part of a grand series of reliefs commissioned by Sennacherib, the Assyrian ruler, for his palace at Nineveh. Lachish was extensively excavated by Tel Aviv University archaeologist David Ussishkin, who has now produced, in the words of Philip J. King in the accompanying article, a “tour de force”—a “magisterial” five-volume report on the excavation.