The Southwest Palace

The SWP was constructed by Sennacherib from 703 BC. His "Palace without Rival" served as the principal royal residence until the restoration of the North Palace in 646 BC. It was retained and restored by Ashurbanipal. The SWP contained scholarly texts plus the archives of Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. These archives of earlier kings were clearly thought worth keeping. They were found with the literary texts, and thus were perhaps considered historical curiosities (see Parpola (1986) pp. 233-234). The tablets were found widely spread but most were on the floor in or near Rooms XL and XLI. These rooms were lined with sculptured panels but may nevertheless have served as archive rooms (Reade (1986) p. 220).

A high proportion of the Library texts are omens, which were an important part of the functioning of the state. Some belonged to individual scholars, and these may be the source of pre-Ashurbanipal tablets. The SWP also yielded official documents and private archives. These were found well to the south of rooms 40 and 41. The official documents date from across 7th century. The private ones date only from the early 7th century. The Palace is only about half excavated, however, so many more tablets are probably still to be found there.

Room 1 area:

Outside room 3 and in rooms 10,29,40-41 vicinity, 48,60,71:

Court 6 and rooms 7-8:


Room 9:

Some of 79-7-8

Rooms 40-41 area:

This is the main findspot of tablets in this palace. K1-54, 56-70,71b-90,92-97,99-116,120b,126-278,296,2162,2939,3001,3966,4085 and many/most of K; DT 12

Room 54 area and oval rooms 29,34,38-42:

Nearly 3000 Sm scholarly and state texts including Sm 162,1350

Room 54 area:

Mainly room 54 area, also rooms 1,28,30:

Room 61:

Sealed bullae. SWP room 61 had been thought of as a storeroom for legal texts on scrolls, However, bullae were attached to bags not scrolls. The legal archives of royal offices c.709-658 were found here. The dearth of records from 657-645 suggests that the owners moved to NP after 645. No pre-Ashurbanipal documents were found there. They presumably had been moved during refurbishment.

Unspecified, probably south-central area:

The Southwest Palace on Kuyunjik

The Southwest Palace on Kuyunjik. Many of the Library tablets were found here. Published in Thompson and Hutchinson (1929) pl. 3, based on Layard (1853).

Content last modified: 27 Jun 2022

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor, 'The Southwest Palace', Ashurbanipal Library Project, The Ashurbanipal Library Project, Department of the Middle East, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, 2022 []

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