The Journals of C...
In 1842, the urbane, cosmopolitan scholar Austen Henry Layard was on his way to become a barrister in Ceylon when he changed his mind and turned back. He was determined to investigate a site in present-day Iraq which he correctly believed to be the Assyrian citadel of Nineveh. It was among the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 19th century. In an age when new evolutionary theories had cast doubt on the literal truth of the Bible, Layard had found a city of the Old Testament which had previously seemed as fabulous as Atlantis or Eden. There he discovered a series of gigantic winged bulls that guarded the gateway to the Palace of Sennacherib. ‘It would be difficult to describe the effect produced … when, after winding through the dark, underground passages, you suddenly came into their presence. Between them Sennacherib and his hosts had gone forth in all their might and glory to the conquest of distant lands…’ These gates, removed by Layard and his team, are now among the foremost treasures of the British Museum.
Published as Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, this is Layard’s account of his second visit to the area (1849–51). He also carried out a dig at the site of Babylon, where he found ‘magic bowls’ to protect against the devil, and bricks stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar – though most had been taken away: ‘There is scarcely a house in Hillah [a nearby town] which is not entirely built with them.’ Layard’s account evokes the hardships and wonders of the great age of archaeology. He describes treating his pleurisy with horse medicine, attacks by Bedouin raiders and encounters with the courteous and hospitable Marsh Arabs. Layard was an extraordinarily accomplished artist, and this edition displays his celebrated pictures of Nineveh, which were drawn in situ. Newly commissioned photographs show artefacts from the British Museum’s Assyrian collection. In his introduction, Andrew George, Professor of Babylonian and Assyrian at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, pays tribute to Layard’s adventurous spirit and seminal contribution.
Review by falanke on 21st Nov 2012
"Astonishingly, this is the first edition of this title to be published since the nineteenth century. “Nineveh and Babylon” epitomizes what Folio does best, revive an out-of-print title and dress i..." [read more]