Nineveh and Its Remains

Volume 2

By Austen Henry Layard, ESQ. D.C.L.

Part 1 - Chapter 12



I HAD long wished to excavate in the mounds of Kalah Sherghat, — ruins rivalling those of Nimroud, and Kouyunjik in extent. An Arab, from the Shammar, would occasionally spend a night amongst my workmen, and entertain them with accounts of idols and sculptured figures of giants, which had long been the cause of wonder and awe to the wandering tribes, who occasionally pitch their tents near the place. On my first visit, I had searched in vain for such remains; but the Arabs, who are accustomed to seek for pasture during the spring in the neighbourhood, persisted in their assertions, and offered to show me where these strange statues, carved, it was said, in black stone, were to be found. As there is scarcely a ruin in Mesopotamia without its wondrous tale of apparitions and Frank idols, I concluded that Kalah Sherghat was to be ranked amongst the number, and that all these accounts were to be attributed to the fertile imagination of the Arabs. As the vicinity is notoriously dangerous, being a place of rendezvous for all plundering parties, whether of the Sharamar, the Aneyza, or the Obeid, I had deferred a visit to the ruins, until I could remain amongst them for a short time under the protection of some powerful tribe. This safeguard was also absolutely necessary in the event of my sending workmen to the place, to carry on excavations.

The pastures in the neighbourhood of Mosul having this year been completely dried from the want of rain, the three great divisions of the Jebour Arabs sought the jungles on the banks of the Tigris below Mosul. Abd'rubbou with his tribe descended the river, and first pitching his tents at Senidij1, near the confluence of the Tigris and the Zab, subsequently moved towards Kalah Sherghat. I thought this a favourable time for excavating in the great mound; and the Sheikh having promised to supply me with Arabs for the work, and with guards for their defence, I sent Mansour, one of my superintendents, to the spot. I followed some days afterwards, accompanied by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, the Bairakdar, and several well-armed men, chosen from amongst the Jebour who were employed at Nimroud.

We crossed the river on a small raft, — our horses having to swim the stream. Striking into the desert by the Wadi Jehennem, we rode through a tract of land, at this time of year usually covered with vegetation; but then, from the drought, a barren waste. During some hours' ride we scarcely saw any human being, except a solitary shepherd in the distance, driving before him his half-famished flocks. We reached at sunset a small encampment of the Jebour. The tents were pitched in the midst of a cluster of high reeds on the banks of the Tigris, and nearly opposite to the tomb of Sultan Abdallah. They were so well concealed, that it required the experienced eye of a Bedouin to detect them2, by the thin smoke rising above the thicket. The cattle and sheep found scanty pasturage in a marsh formed by the river. The Arabs were as poor and miserable as their beasts; they received us, however, with hospitality, and killed a very lean lamb for our entertainment.

Near the encampment was a quadrangle, resembling on a small scale the great enclosures of Nimroud and Kouyunjik, formed by low mounds, and evidently marking the site of an Assyrian town or fort. I searched for some time, but without success, for fragments of pottery or brick bearing the traces of cuneiform characters.

On the following day we passed the bitumen pits, or the "Kiyara," as they are called by the Arabs. They cover a considerable extent of ground; the bitumen bubbling up in springs from crevices in the earth. The Jebour, and other tribes encamping near the pits, carry the bitumen for sale to Mosul, and other parts of the Pashalic. It is extensively used for building purposes, for lining the boats on the river, and particularly for smearing camels, when suffering from certain diseases of the skin to which they are liable. Before leaving the pits, the Arabs, as is their habit, set fire to the bitumen, which sent forth a dense smoke, obscuring the sky, and being visible for many miles. We reached the tents of Abd'rubbou early in the afternoon. They were pitched about ten miles to the north of Kalah Sherghat, at the upper end of a long slip of rich alluvial soil, lying between the river and the range of low hills parallel to it. The great mound was visible from this spot, rising high above the Zor, or jungle, which clothes the banks of the Tigris.

No Sheikh could have made a more creditable show of friendship than did Abd'rubbou. He rode out to meet me, and, without delay, ordered sheep enough to be slain to feast half his tribe. I declined, however, to spend the night with him, as he pressed me to do, on the plea that I was anxious to see the result of the excavations at Kalah Sherghat. He volunteered to accompany me to the ruins after we had breakfasted, and declared that if a blade of grass were to be found near the mound, he would move all his tents there immediately for my protection. In the meanwhile, to do me proper honour, he introduced me to his wives, and to his sister, whose beauty I had often heard extolled by the Jebour, and who was not altogether undeserving of her reputation. She was still unmarried. Abd'rubbou himself was one of the handsomest Arabs in Mesopotamia.

We started for the ruins in the afternoon, and rode along the edge of the jungle. Hares, wolves, foxes, jackals, and wild boars continually crossed our path, and game of all kinds seemed to abound. The Arabs gave chase; but the animals were able to enter the thick brushwood, and conceal themselves before my greyhounds could reach them. Lions are sometimes found near Kalah Sherghat, rarely higher up on the Tigris.3 As I floated down to Baghdad a year before, I had heard the roar of a lion not far from this spot: they are, however, seldom seen, and we beat the bushes in vain for such noble game.

As for grass, except in scanty tufts at the foot of the trees in the jungle, there appeared to be none at all. The drought had been felt all over the desert: in the place of the green meadows of last year, covered with flowers, and abounding in natural reservoirs of water, there was a naked yellow waste, in which even the abstemious flocks of the Bedouin could scarcely escape starvation.

As we rode along, Abd'rubbou examined every corner and ravine in the hope of finding an encamping place, and a little pasture for his cattle, but his search was not attended with much success.

The workmen on the mound, seeing horsemen approach, made ready for an encounter, under the impression that we were a foraging party from a hostile tribe. As soon, however, as they recognised us, they threw off the few superfluous garments they possessed. Dropping their shirts from their shoulders, and tying them round their waist by the arms, they set up the war cry, and rushed in and out of the trenches like madmen.

We heard their shouts from afar, but could see nothing from the dust they made in throwing out the earth. I found that Mansour, the superintendent, had organised a regular system of warlike defence. We were hailed by scouts as we advanced, and there were well-armed watchmen on all the heights. Near each trench were the matchlocks and spears of the workmen, ready for use. " What need of all these precautions? " said I to the timid Christian, as he advanced to receive me. "Yia Rubbi! May God preserve you, 0 Bey! " replied he. " Our lives, under your shadow, are, of course, of no value — may yours be prolonged. But all the unbelievers in the world — whether they be Aneyza, Shammar, Obeid, or any other manner of infidel — congregate here. If we put a morsel of bread into our mouths — lo! we have to spit it out again, before we can eat it, to meet those accursed Bedouins. If we shut our eyes in sleep, they steal our cauldrons and pots, and we have nothing wherewith to bake our bread; so that, if we are not killed, we must be starved. They come from the desert and from the river — from north, south, east and west. But we have eaten your bread, and shall not go unrewarded after all these sufferings." The concluding paragraph accounted to some extent for this exaggerated history of their miseries; but I learnt that scarcely a day had elapsed without the appearance of a body of horsemen from some of the tribes of the desert, and that their visits were not always prompted by the most friendly intentions. The general scarcity, and the rivalry between Sofuk and Nejris, had unsettled the Arabs, and every one was on the look-out to help himself to his neighbour's property. Moreover, reports had soon been spread abroad that a Frank, acquainted with all the secrets and hidden mysteries of wisdom, had been successfully searching for treasure. Many of those who rode to Kalah Sherghat, expected to return much wealthier men than they went, by seizing the heaps of gold and silver to which, as possessors of the country, they were convinced they had better claims than a stranger. However, with the exception of an occasional squabble with the Bedouins who visited the mound, ending in a few broken heads, no very serious engagement had yet taken place — my workmen presenting much too formidable an appearance to be exposed to the attack of any but a large and well-armed party.

The principal excavations had been made on the western side of the mound. After I had succeeded in obtaining silence, and calming the sudden fit of enthusiasm which had sprung up on my arrival, I descended into the trenches. A sitting figure in black basalt, of the size of life, had been uncovered. It was, however, much mutilated. The head and hands had been destroyed and other parts of the statue had been injured. The square stool, or block, upon which the figure sat, was covered on three sides with a cuneiform inscription. The first line, containing the name and titles of the king, was almost defaced; but one or two characters enabled me to restore a name, identical with that on the great bulls in the centre of the mound at Nimroud. On casting my eye down the first column of the inscription, I found the names of his father (the builder of the most ancient palace of Nimroud), and of his grandfather, which at once proved that the reading was correct. An Arab soon afterwards brought me a brick bearing a short legend, which contained the three names entire. I was thus enabled to fix the comparative epoch of the newly-discovered ruins. At no time did I feel the value of the genealogical lists on the different monuments at Nimroud, more than when exploring other remains in Assyria. They enabled me to ascertain the comparative date of every edifice, and rock tablet, with which I became acquainted; and to fix the style of art of each period.

The figure, unlike the sculptures of Nimroud and Khorsabad, was in full, and not in relief; and probably represented the king. Part of the beard was still preserved; the hands appear to have rested on the knees, and a long robe edged with tassels reached to the ankles. The Arabs declared that this statue had been seen some years before; and it is possible that, at some period of heavy rain, it may have been for a short time exposed to view, and subsequently reburied. It stood on a spur of the mound, and probably in its original position. Mansour had dug trenches at right angles with it on four sides, in the expectation of finding a corresponding figure; but he was disappointed in his search, and no remains of building were discovered near it.

In other parts of the mound there were ruins of walls, but we found no more sculptures. Several tombs, similar to those discovered above the palaces of Nimroud, had been opened; and Mansour brought me earthen vases, and bottles taken from them. He had also picked up, amongst the rubbish, a few fragments of stone bearing cuneiform characters, a piece of copper similarly inscribed, and several bits of black stone with small figures in relief, which appeared to have belonged to an obelisk, like that dug up at Nimroud.

Having made a hasty survey of the trenches, I rode to my tent. It had been pitched in the midst of those of my workmen. The Arabs had found for their encampment a secure place in the jungle at the northern foot of the mound, and not far from the Tigris. A ditch, leading from the river, nearly surrounded the tents, which were completely concealed by the trees and shrubs. Abd'rubbou remained with me for the night. Whilst I was examining the ruins, he had' been riding to and fro, to find a convenient spot for his tents, and grass for his cattle. Such is the custom with the Arabs. When the grass, within a certain distance of their encampment, has been exhausted, they prepare to seek new pastures. The Sheikhs, and the principal men of the tribe mount their mares, and ride backwards and forwards over the face of the country, until they find herbage sufficient for the wants of their flocks. Having fixed upon a spot, they return to acquaint their followers with their success, and announce their intention of moving thither on the following morning. The Sheikh's tent is generally the first struck; and the rest of the Arabs, if they feel inclined, follow his movements. If any of the tribe have quarrelled with the chief and wish to desert him, they seize this occasion; leaving their tents standing until the others are gone, and then moving off in another direction.

Abd'rubbou having, at length, fixed upon a suitable spot on the banks of the river, to the south of the mound, he marked out a place for his tents, and sent a horseman to his tribe, with orders for them to move to Kalah Sherghat on the following morning. These preliminaries having been settled, he adjourned to my tent to supper. It was cold and damp, and the Arabs, collecting brushwood and trunks of trees, made a great fire, which lighted up the recesses of the jungle. As the night advanced, a violent storm broke over us; the wind rose to a hurricane — the rain descended in torrents — the thunder rolled in one long peal — and the vivid streams of lightning, almost incessant, showed the surrounding landscape. When the storm had abated, I walked to a short distance from the tents to gaze upon the scene. The huge fire we had kindled, threw a lurid glare over the trees around our encampment. The great mound could be distinguished through the gloom, rising like a distant mountain against the dark sky. From all sides came the melancholy wail of the jackals — thousands of these animals having issued from their subterranean dwellings in the ruins, as soon as the last gleam of twilight was fading in the western horizon. The owl, perched on the old masonry, occasionally sent forth its mournful note. The shrill laugh of the Arabs would sometimes rise above the cry of the jackal. Then all earthly noises were buried in the deep roll of the distant thunder. It was desolation such as those alone who have witnessed such scenes, can know — desolation greater than the desolation of the sandy wastes of Africa: for there was the wreck of man, as well as that of nature. Some years before, I had passed a night on the same spot. We were four strangers in the land, without guide or defence. Our horses were picketted about us; and although surrounded by dangers, of which we then thought little, and exposed to a continual rain, we ate the frugal fare our own guns had obtained for us; and slept in our cloaks undisturbed, round the embers of the small fire we had lighted.4 I did not think then that I should ever revisit the place.

Soon after sunrise, on the following morning, stragglers on horseback from Abd'rubbou's late encampment, began to arrive. They were soon followed by the main body of the tribe. Long lines of camels, sheep, laden donkeys, men, women, and children, such as I have described in my visit to Sofuk, covered the small plain, near the banks of the river. A scene of activity and bustle ensued. Every one appeared desirous to outdo his neighbour in vehemence of shouting, and violence of action. A stranger would have fancied that there was one general quarrel; in which, out of several hundred men and women concerned, no two persons took the same side of the question. Every one seemed to differ from every one else. All this confusion, however, was but the result of a friendly debate on the site of the respective tents; and when the matter had been settled to the general satisfaction, without recourse to any more violent measures than mere yelling, each family commenced raising their temporary abode. The camels being made to kneel down, and the donkeys to stop in the place fixed upon, the loads were rolled off their backs. The women next spread the coarse, black, goat-hair canvass. The men rushed about with wooden mallets to drive in the stakes and pegs; and in a few minutes the dwellings, which were to afford them shelter until they needed shelter no longer, and under which they had lived from their birth upwards, were complete. The women and girls were then sent forth to fetch water, or to collect brushwood and dry twigs for fire. The men, leaving all household matters to their wives and daughters, assembled in the tent of the Sheikh; and crouching in a circle round an entire trunk of an old tree, which was soon enveloped in flames, they prepared to pass the rest of the day in that desultory small-talk, relating to stolen sheep, stray donkeys, or successful robberies, which fills up the leisure of an Arab, unless he be better employed in plundering, or in war.

There is a charm in this wandering existence, whether of the Kurd or the Arab, which cannot be described. I have had some experience in it, and look back with pleasure to the days I have spent in the desert, notwithstanding the occasional inconveniences of such a life, not the least of them being a strong tendency on the part of all nomads to profess a kind of communist philosophy, supposed in Europe to be the result of modern wisdom; but which appears to have been known, from the earliest times, in the East. Friends and strangers are not always exempted from the rules of this philosophy, and, as reciprocity is as little understood in the Asiatic, as in the European system, their property is made no less free with than that of Job was, by Arabs and Chaldees, some four thousand years ago. Still this mode of life has not always a bad effect on human nature: on the contrary, it frequently acts favourably. One cannot but admire the poor half-naked Arab, who, intrusted with a letter or a message from his Sheikh to the haughty Pasha of Baghdad, walks proudly up to the great man's sofa, and seats himself, unbidden, upon it as an equal. He fulfils his errand as if he were half ashamed of it. If it be too late to return to his tent that night, or if business still keep him from the desert, he stretches himself under a tree outside the city gate, that he may not be degraded by sleeping under a roof or within walls. He believes that the town corrupts the wanderer; and he remembers that, until the Sheikh of the desert visited the citizens, and was feasted in the palaces of their governors, oppression and vices most odious to the Arab were unknown in his tribe.

Leaving Abd'rubbou and his Arabs to pitch their tents, and settle their domestic matters, I walked to the mound. The trenches dug by the workmen around the sitting figure, were almost sufficiently extensive to prove, that no other remains of building existed in its immediate vicinity. Had not the figure been in an upright position I should have concluded, at once, that it had been brought from elsewhere; as I could not find traces of pavement, nor any fragments of sculpture or hewn stone, near it. Removing the workmen, therefore, from this part of the mound, I divided them into small parties, and employed them in making experiments in different directions. Wherever trenches were opened, remains of the Assyrian period were found, but only in fragments; such as bits of basalt, with small figures in relief, portions of slabs bearing cuneiform inscriptions, and bricks similarly inscribed. Many tombs were also uncovered. Like those of Nimroud, they had been made long after the destruction of the Assyrian building, and in the rubbish and earth which had accumulated above it. The sarcophagi resembled those I have already described — large cases of baked clay, some square, others in the form of a dish-cover; as at Nimroud, they were all much too small to hold a human body, unless it had been violently forced in, or the limbs had been separated. That the body had not been burned, was proved by all the bones of the skeleton being found entire. They may have been exposed, as is the custom amongst the Parsees, until, by the usual process of decomposition, or from the flesh being devoured by birds and beasts of prey, the bones were left naked; they may then have been collected, and buried in these earthen cases. In the sarcophagi were found numerous small vases, metal ornaments, and a copper cup, resembling in shape and in the embossing upon it, that represented in the hand of the king, in one of the bas-reliefs of a chamber of the north-west palace of Nimroud.5

Above these ancient tombs were graves of more recent date, some of them, indeed, belonged to the tribes which had, but a few days before, encamped amongst the ruins.6 The tenant of one had been removed from his last resting-place by the hungry hyenas and jackals, who haunt these depositories of the dead. The rude casing of stones, forming the interior of an Arab grave, was exposed to view; and the bones and skull, still clothed with shreds of flesh, were scattered around.

Although I remained two days at Kalah Sherghat I was not able to find the platform of sun-dried bricks upon which the edifice, now in ruins, and covered with earth, must originally have been built. Remains of walls were found in abundance; but they were evidently of a more recent period than the Assyrian building, to which the inscribed bricks, and the fragments of sculptured stone belonged. The trenches opened by the workmen were deep; but still they did not, I think, reach the platform of the older building. The ruins were consequently not thoroughly explored. I saw no remains of the alabaster or Mosul marble, so generally employed in the palaces to the north of Kalah Sherghat. As quarries of that stone do not exist in the neighbourhood, unbaked bricks alone may have been used; and if so, the walls built with them could no longer, without very careful examination, be distinguished from the soil in which they are buried. Had there been sculptured slabs, as at Nimroud, it is probable that fragments, at least, would have been found in the ravines after the earth had been washed away by the rains; and they would then most likely have been taken by the Arabs to decorate their graves (the use to which they are generally applied); but no such fragments were to be met with. All the hewn stones discovered amongst the ruins, except the remains of basalt, were evidently obtained from the hills in the immediate vicinity.7

The Tigris has been gradually encroaching upon the ruins, and is yearly undermining and wearing away the mound. Large masses of earth are continually falling into the stream, leaving exposed to view vases, sarcophagi, and remains of building. Along the banks of the river, to the south of the great mound, several remains of circular masonry, which had the appearance of wells, had been thus uncovered. At the time of my first visit, similar wells were exposed, and we were at a loss to account for their origin and use. I now opened two or three of them. They were filled with earth, mixed with human bones and fragments of vases and pottery8; but whether the bones and the vases had been originally deposited there, or had fallen in from above with the rubbish, I could not determine. It is possible that these wells may have been constructed, at a very early period, for purposes of irrigation, or to supply water to the inhabitants of the city; and may have been buried, like the surrounding buildings, long before the erection of the upper edifices, and even before the time of the tombs.

The principal ruin at Kalah Sherghat, as at Nimroud, Khorsabad, and on other ancient Assyrian sites, is a large square mound, surmounted by a cone or pyramid. Long lines of smaller mounds or ramparts, enclose a quadrangle, which, from the irregularities in the surface of the ground, and from the pottery and other rubbish scattered about, appears originally to have been partly occupied by small houses, or unimportant buildings.

At Kalah Sherghat, the high conical mound rises nearly in the centre of the north side of the great platform. Immediately below this cone, and forming a facing to the great mound, is a wall of well-hewn stones or slabs, carefully fitted together, and bevelled at the edges. The battlements still existing on the top of this wall, are cut into gradines, resembling in this respect the battlements of castles and towers, as frequently represented in the Nimroud sculptures. It is probably an Assyrian work, and the four sides of the mound may originally have been similarly cased.

It is not improbable that much of the masonry, still visible on the summit of the mound, may be the remains of an Arab or Turkish fort. The position of Kalah Sherghat is well adapted to a permanent settlement. The lands around are rich, and could be irrigated without much labour. If the population of Mesopotamia were more settled than it now is, the high road between Mosul and Baghdad would be carried along the western banks of the Tigris; and Kalah Sherghat might soon become a place of importance, both as a station and as a post of defence. At present, caravans, carrying on the trade between those two cities, are compelled to make a considerable detour to the left of the river. They pass through the towns of Arbil and Kerkouk, and skirt the Kurdish hills, to avoid the Arab tribes of Tai and Obeid. The journey is long and circuitous; and, from the number of large rivers and torrents to be crossed, merchants are, in the winter and spring, frequently delayed for many days. The road through the desert to the right of the Tigris would be direct and short; water could, of course, be easily obtained during the whole journey, and there are no streams to interrupt the progress of a caravan. There can be little doubt that, in the days of the Arab supremacy, a flourishing commerce was carried on through this wilderness, and that there was a line of settlements, and stations on both sides of the river; but its banks are now the encamping places of wild tribes; and no merchant dares to brave the dangers of the desert, or to compound, if he escapes them, by the payment of an enormous black-mail to the Arab Sheikhs, through whose pasture-grounds his camels must pass.

The principal mound of Kalah Sherghat, is one of the largest ruins with which I am acquainted in Assyria. I had not the leisure, or the means, to measure it accurately during this visit; but when on the spot with Mr. Ainsworth, we carefully paced round it; and the result, according to that gentleman's calculation, gives a circumference of 4685 yards.9 A part of it, however, is not artificial. Irregularities in the face of the country, and natural eminences, have been united into one great platform by layers of sundried bricks. It is, nevertheless, a stupendous structure, yielding in magnitude and extent to no other artificial mound in Assyria. In height it is unequal; to the south it slopes off nearly to the level of the plain, whilst to the north, where it is most lofty, its sides are perpendicular, in some places rising nearly one hundred feet above the plain.

I will not attempt to connect, without better materials than we now possess, the ruins of Kalah Sherghat with any ancient city whose name occurs in the sacred books, or has been preserved by ancient geographers. That it was one of the most ancient cities of Assyria, the identification of the name of the king, found on its monuments and bricks, with that of the founder of the centre palace of Nimroud, will be sufficient to prove; but whether it be Chalah, one of the four primitive cities mentioned in Genesis10, or the Ur of Abraham, still existing in the time of Aminianus Marcellinus11, I will not venture to determine. Of the geography of ancient Assyria, we know scarcely any thing. When even the site of Nineveh could not recently be determined with any degree of certainty, we can scarcely expect to be able to identify the ruins of less important places. We possess but few names of cities preceding the Persian conquest; and the accounts handed down to us are too meagre and vague, to lead to the identification of the site of any of them. An extended knowledge of the monuments of Assyria, and an acquaintance with the contents of the inscriptions, may, hereafter, enable us not only to fix the position of these cities, but to ascertain the names of many more, which must have existed in so well-peopled a country, and may have perished on the fall of the Empire.

Having directed Mansour to continue the excavations, I prepared to return to Mosul. Abd'rubbou offered to accompany me, and as the desert between Kalah Sherghat and Hammum Ali was infested by roving parties of the Shammar and Aneyza Arabs, I deemed it prudent to accept his escort. He chose eight horsemen from his tribe, and we started together for the desert.

We slept the first night at the tents of a Seyyid, or descendant of the Prophet, of some repute for sanctity, for the miraculous cure of diseases, which he effected by merely touching the patient. The Arabs are fully persuaded of the existence of this power; but I never saw any one who even pretended to have been cured, although there was certainly no lack of subjects for the Seyyid to practise upon. The old gentleman's daughter, a dark, handsome girl, was claimed by a Sheikh of the Jebour, to whom, according to some accounts, she had been betrothed. The greater part of the night was spent in quarrelling and wrangling upon this subject. The Seyyid resolutely denied the contract, on the mere plea that one of such holy descent could not be united to a man, in whose veins the blood of the Prophet did not flow. Abd'rubbou and his friends, on the other hand, as stoutly contended for the claims of the lover, not treating, I thought, so great a saint with a proper degree of respect. Although my tent was pitched at some distance from the assembly, the discordant voices, all joining at the same time in the most violent discussion, kept me awake until past midnight. Suddenly the disputants appeared to have talked themselves out, and there was a lull. Vainly flattering myself that the company had sunk into sleep, I prepared to follow their example. But I had scarcely closed my eyes, when I was roused by a fresh outbreak of noises. An Arab had suddenly arrived from the banks of the Khabour — the old pasture grounds of the tribe: he was overwhelmed with a thousand questions, and the news he brought of struggles between the Aneyza and the Asai, and the defeat of the former enemies of the Jebour, led to continual bursts of enthusiasm, and to one or two attempts to raise a general shouting of the war-cry. Thus they passed the night, to my great discomfort.

On the morrow I started early with Abd'rubbou and his horsemen. We struck directly across the desert, leaving my servants and baggage to follow leisurely along the banks of the river, by a longer but safer road. When we were within four or five miles of that part of the Tigris at which the raft was waiting for me, I requested Abd'rubbou to return, as there appeared to be no further need of an escort. Mr. Hormuzd Rassam and myself galloped over the plain. We disturbed, as we rode along, a few herds of gazelles, and a solitary wolf, or a jackal; but we saw no human beings. Abd'rubbou and his Arabs were less fortunate; they had scarcely left us when they observed a party of horsemen in the distance, whom they mistook for men of their own tribe returning from Mosul. It was not until they drew nigh that they discovered their mistake. The horsemen were plunderers from the Aneyza. The numbers were pretty equal. A fight ensued, in which two men on the side of the enemy, and one of the Jebour, were killed; but the Aneyza were defeated, and Abd'rubbou carried off, in triumph, a couple of mares.

A few days after my return to Nimroud, the Jebour were compelled, from want of pasturage, to leave the neighbourhood of Kalah Sherghat. The whole desert, as well as the jungle on the banks of the river, which generally supplied, even in the driest seasons, a little grass to the flocks, was dried up. Abd'rubbou, with his tribe, moved to the north. A few of his people came to Nimroud to cultivate millet; but the Sheikh himself, with the greater part of his followers, left the district of Mosul altogether, and migrated to the sources of the Khabour, and to the Nisibin branch of that river — the ancient Mygdonius. The desert to the south of the town was now only frequented by wandering parties of plunderers, and the position of my workmen at Kalah Sherghat became daily more insecure. After they had been once or twice exposed to molestation from the Aneyza, and the Obeid, I found it necessary to withdraw them — had I not, they would probably have run away of themselves. I renounced the further examination of these ruins with regret, as they had not been properly explored; and I have little doubt, from the fragments discovered, that many objects of interest, if not sculptured slabs, exist in the mound.

Although I was unable, at this time, to remove the sitting figure, I have, since my return to England, at the desire of the Trustees of the British Museum, sent orders for its transport to Baghdad. This has been accomplished under the directions of Mr. Ross. It will, I trust, be ere long added to the Assyrian remains now in the national collection. Although it has unfortunately suffered greatly from long exposure, it is of considerable interest, as being the only specimen, hitherto discovered, of an entire Assyrian figure.



1) A corruption of Sunedik, the plural form of Sanduk, a box. The place is so called by the Arabs from the peculiar form of the rocks near the river.

2) In the desert, the vicinity of an encampment is generally marked by some sign well known to the members of the tribe. It would otherwise be very difficult to discover the tents, pitched, as they usually are, in some hollow or ravine to conceal them from hostile plundering parties.

3) The lion is frequently met with on the banks of the Tigris below Baghdad, rarely above. On the Euphrates it has been seen, I believe, almost as high as Bir, where the steamers of the first Euphrates expedition, under Colonel Chesney, were launched. In the Sinjar, and on the banks of the Khabour, they are frequently caught by the Arabs. They abound in Khuzistan, the ancient Susiana: I have frequently seen three or four together, and have hunted them with the chiefs of the tribes inhabiting that province.

4) Ainsworth's Travels in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, &c. vol. ii.

5) This cup was taken out entire, but was unfortunately broken by the man who was employed to carry it to Mosul.

6) The Arabs generally seek some elevated spot to bury their dead. The artificial mounds, abounding in Mesopotamia and Assyria, are usually chosen for the purpose, and there is scarcely one whose summit is not covered with them. On this account I frequently experienced great difficulty whilst excavating, and was compelled to leave unexamined one or two ruins, into which I wished to open trenches.

7) They are of a coarse fossilifcrous limestone.

8) I found similar wells amongst the ruins on the banks of the rivers of Susiana. One having been opened on the river of Dizful, remains, similar to those described in the text, were found in it.

9) Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xi. p. 5.

10) Chap. x. 11.

11) Lib. xxv. c 8. Aminianus does not mention Hatra after, but before Ur; so that Mr. Ainsworth's argument in favour of the identification of the latter city with Kalah Sherghat, is scarcely tenable. (Journal of the Geog. Soc. vol. xi.)