Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Oriental Institute Excavations at Khorsabad

     Years ago, when I was a college student I had my usual Friday night archaeology class. This particular semester it was the Archaeology of Mesopotamia. We had a paper due every semester and the topic was assigned by passing around a hat from which you would draw the name of the archaeological site you would use as your topic. This particular semester I picked the site of Khorsabad.

     I knew nothing about the site but dug in to the topic and found it had an interesting story. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago had excavated the site from 1928 to 1935 and there they found the palace of the Assyrian King Sargon. The King decided to build a new capital just after he ascended to the throne (about 721 B.C.). When he died (about 705 B. C.), the city had not yet been completed and was abandoned when his successor, Sennacherib, decided to move the capital back to Nineveh.

     Excavations centered around Sargon's palace, which was surrounded by a wall that isolated it from the remainder of the city, making the palace something of a citadel within Khorsabad. The throne room of the palace was lined with large carvings of the King, gods, and officials. But the major piece found was the shattered remains of a huge winged bull (Lammasu) that guarded one of the throne room's doorways. At the end of the season the Oriental Institute asked for the pieces of the Lammasu as part of its portion of the antiquities found.

     Earlier this year I visited Chicago and was able to go to the Oriental Institute to see the objects I had written about many years before. The next couple of posts will try to give you a flavor of what the city of Khorsabad was like more than two thousand years ago.

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