Museums in the United Kingdom with objects from Nimrud

Artefacts from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) have ended up in museum collections across the world. This page lists the 13 museums in the United Kingdom holding Nimrud objects as of 2013. The Nimrud Project wishes to thank the museums listed here for sharing information about their collections. Contact us with any additions or amendments.

Map of UK museums with Nimrud material

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UK museums with Nimrud objects

Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford

Oxford's Ashmolean Museum TT  has the second largest collection of Nimrud objects in the UK, with roughly 330 artefacts. Among the collection are three relief TT  panels from king Assurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace: an eagle-headed genie TT  from Room B and a human-headed genie from Room I came to the museum in 1850 as a gift from Layard's excavation. A further fragment of a sacred tree TT  from Room I was purchased in 1950 from Peterborough's City Museum and Art Gallery, which had acquired it from Lady Layard in 1900. (1).

The Ashmolean Museum received a significant quantity of artefacts from excavations at Nimrud by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq TT  (BSAI) in the 1950s. Objects were gifted to the museum as a result of financial donations to the archaeological dig. The collection includes cuneiform tablets, seals TT , ivory writing boards TT , statues, figurines TT , amulets TT , jewellery, weights and ceramic vessels.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has the third largest collection of Nimrud objects in the UK, including pottery vessels, cylinder seals TT , inscribed bricks TT  and clay hands TT . The artefacts were gifted by BSAI TT  in the 1950s in return for financial contributions to the excavation. One highlight of the collection is the group of carved ivory TT  plaques TT , some of the so-called 'Nimrud ivories TT '. These ivories are the remains of Assyrian furniture that was unearthed in king Shalmaneser III's royal arsenal, heaped up as war booty. Birmingham Museum gave the Nimrud Project a behind-the-scenes look at conservation work on the ivories in summer 2013.

Bolton Museum, Bolton, Lancashire

Bolton museum has three Nimrud ivories TT  in its archaeology collections. These carved ivory TT  plaques TT  were purchased from BSAI TT  in 1964 through Bolton Museum's curator Vincent Smith, who was personal friends with BSAI's Director Sir Max Mallowan. Purchase of the ivories was championed in local newspaper the Bolton Evening News, who reported it under the headline "Friendship gets Bolton Museum £200 Bargains" (2).

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has three relief panels from the Northwest Palace in its collection: an eagle-headed genie from Room F (museum number H794) and two adjacent panels from room H depicting the king and his attendants (museum numbers H794 and H796). The museum purchased the panels from Bristol Fine Arts Academy in 1905, who had previously acquired them from Sir Henry Rawlinson (3).

The British Museum, London

The British Museum's collection of artefacts from Nimrud is world-famous and has shaped the image of Assyria in public imagination since the mid-19th century. Among the artefacts discovered by Austen Henry Layard's expedition between 1845-7 and 1849-51 are around 65 stone relief panels [,_north-west_palace.aspx] from the Northwest Palace [northwestpalace] of king Assurnasirpal II PGP , bearing the king's inscription and protective imagery. Colossal statues of winged bulls that once protected the palace were also hauled back to London by rail and sea, using the trade routes of the British Empire. Another object that shot to fame was the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, due to its connections to the Christian Bible. This two-metre tall stone monument depicts Biblical king Jehu bringing tribute to the Assyrian ruler - an event that is not mentioned in the Bible itself.

In addition to famous 19th-century discoveries, the British Museum holds the UK's largest collection of artefacts from 1950s excavations by the British School of Archaeology in Iraq TT . The collection of around 2300 artefacts includes corpora of cuneiform texts written on clay tablets and other types inscribed objects, such as weights, architectural fittings and writing boards.

Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, Cambridge

The Fitzwilliam Museum's main entrance staircase is home to several stone genies TT  and kings from Assurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace. These relief panels have made a 3000-year journey from Kalhu in the heart of the Assyrian empire to Cambridge, travelling via Bombay PGP  and Eton College TT . The Fitzwilliam also has a collection of 9 carved ivory plaques found in king Shalmaneser III's royal arsenal TT , acquired from the BSAI excavation in the 1950s in return for financial donations to the dig.

Glasgow Museums, The Burrell Collection

Glasgow Museums have several Nimrud objects in their Assyrian and Babylonian collection. One significant artefact is a portion of a relief panel from from Room C of the Northwest Palace, showing the head of a royal attendant (accession number 28.35). The attendant's head has been neatly cut out from a larger relief into a square head-and-shoulders portrait. The panel portion was acquired by shipping magnate and art collector Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) in 1947 from the collection of Seymour, Wiltshire via the Spink & Son auction house. Also in the Burrell Collection is a small fragment of stone bearing the Standard Inscription of Assurnasirpal II (accession number 28. Burrell purchased this two-line fragment of inscription, measuring c.19x4.5cm in 1956 (4), (5). It is an example of the many small fragments of inscription created by cutting larger pieces during the nineteenth century.

Ipswich Museum, Ipswich, Suffolk

Ipswich Museum provides a good example of how artefacts can move to a new location even after entering a museum's collection. Ipswich Museum acquired 3 Nimrud ivories TT  in June 1966 in return for a financial contribution to the BSAI TT  excavation. After a review of the ivories in c.2012, Ipswich Museum decided that these artefacts should be transferred to the British Museum where they could be better appreciated in the context of the wider Nimrud collection. The transfer of the 3 ivories was completed in January 2014 and Ipswich Museum continues to work in partnership with the British Museum.

Information on archaeology collections at Ipswich Museum.

Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, Manchester

Manchester Museum has a fragmentary relief panel from the Northwest Palace and an additional fragment of inscription. The partial panel (accession number 35525) shows a winged genie and was gifted to the museum from the family of J. C. Hilton in 1926, via Dr. J. M. Hyslop. This Hyslop is likely the same 'Dr Hyslop' who received several reliefs around 1852 and who was surgeon to the Residency TT  of Colonel Henry Rawlinson, the East India Company TT  agent in Baghdad (6), (7).

In addition, Manchester has four carved ivories TT  from the haul discovered in Room SW37 of king Shalmaneser's royal arsenal. The ivories were acquired from the 1949-1963 BSAI excavation.

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), University of Cambridge, Cambridge

Cambridge's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a collection of around 50 objects from Nimrud, all excavated by BSAI TT  in the 1950s. The Nimrud Project has studied some of the artefacts in detail, including the collection of wine goblets, bowls and pots from Kalhu's royal residences and a bronze TT  model dog found down a palace well.

National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh

National Museums Scotland (NMS) has only one Nimrud object in its collection, but it is a fine one: a carved relief TT  panel from king Assurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace, showing king Assurnasirpal himself, making an offering to the gods. The relief panel was formerly owned by Scottish physician Sir James Young Simpson (1811-1870), who collected antiquities and objects related to medical history. Simpson donated the panel to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1865. It remained there until the 1930s when the Society passed its collection of non-Scottish material to the museum on long-term loan. These collections, including the panel, were formally transferred to NMS in 1956. The panel had been displayed at the museum in the same location since the 1950s due to its large size and weight, but in 2010 conservators TT  carefully moved it to a fresh location in the museum's new building.

Oriental Museum, University of Durham, Durham

Durham's Oriental Museum has 8 objects from Nimrud within its Islamic and Near Eastern collections, all excavated by BSAI. The material was gifted to the University in return for financial support of the 1953 and 1958 excavation seasons TT  at Nimrud (8) (9).

Durham's Nimrud objects include a brick inscribed TT  with the name of king Shalmaneser III, which describes the building of the Kalhu ziggurat; several fine palace ware TT  vessels from the Northwest Palace; and a ceramic vase from Room 3 of the temple of the god Nabu.

Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum's collection contains three pieces of iron that come from tripods found at Nimrud (1953.6.1 .1, 1953.6.1 .2, 1953.6.1 .3). Iron tripods were used in antiquity to support large cauldrons TT  and several were found at Nimrud in a reasonably complete state, some with bronze feet shaped like bull's hooves or lion's paws (10). The pieces in the Pitt Rivers collection, by contrast, are tiny samples of rusted iron from a fragmentary tripod. They were acquired from the British Museum in the 1950s as research samples. Metal analysis was carried out on them as part of research study into ancient iron (11).

V&A, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London has one object from Nimrud in its collection: a fragment of glazed earthenware brick, which came to the V&A by transfer from the Museum of Practical Geology in London's Jermyn Street. The Museum of Practical Geology (1851-1933) displayed man-made items of artistic or industrial value, produced from raw materials mined from the earth (12). Its Nimrud brick fragment was given as a gift by Austen Henry Layard PGP , as described in an 1871 catalogue of museum specimens (13).

Content last modified: 31 Dec 2015
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  1. Englund, K., 2003. Nimrud und seine Funde: Der Weg der Reliefs in die Museen und Sammlungen (Orient-Archäologie 12), Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf, pp. 56, 113, 118. (Find in text ^)
  2. "Friendship gets Bolton Museum £200 bargains", 1964. Evening News, Bolton, Lancashire, June 9. (Find in text ^)
  3. Englund, K., 2003. Nimrud und seine Funde: Der Weg der Reliefs in die Museen und Sammlungen (Orient-Archäologie 12), Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf, pp. 76, 93. (Find in text ^)
  4. Englund, K., 2003. Nimrud und seine Funde: Der Weg der Reliefs in die Museen und Sammlungen (Orient-Archäologie 12), Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf, p. 60. (Find in text ^)
  5. Peltenburg, E., 1991. The Burrell Collection: Western Asiatic Antiquities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums, pp. 71-74. (Find in text ^)
  6. Englund, K., 2003. Nimrud und seine Funde: Der Weg der Reliefs in die Museen und Sammlungen (Orient-Archäologie 12), Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf, pp. 28, 147. (Find in text ^)
  7. Tyler, W. S., 1859. Memoir of Rev. Henry Lobdell, M.D. Late Missionary of the American Board at Mosul: Including the Early History of the Assyrian Mission, Boston: The American Tract Society. (free online edition at The Internet Archive), p. 373. (Find in text ^)
  8. Mallowan, M.E.L., 1954. "The Excavations at Nimrud (Kalḫu), 1953", Iraq 16, pp. 59-114 (PDF available via JSTOR [] for subscribers), p. 60. (Find in text ^)
  9. Mallowan, M.E.L., 1959. "The Excavations at Nimrud (Kalẖu), 1958", Iraq 21, pp. 93-97 (PDF available via JSTOR [] for subscribers), p. 93. (Find in text ^)
  10. Curtis, J., 2013. An Examination of Late Assyrian Metalwork: With Special Reference to Nimrud, Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 65-67, pl XXXII-XXXV. (Find in text ^)
  11. . (Find in text ^)
  12. . (Find in text ^)
  13. , p. 30. (Find in text ^)

Ruth A. Horry

Ruth A. Horry, 'Museums in the United Kingdom with objects from Nimrud', Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production, The Nimrud Project at, 2015 []

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