Replicas of the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III from Nimrud is in the British Museum, London, but many facsimiles have been produced from the original artefact since its rediscovery in 1846. Plaster replicas of the Black Obelisk now sit in museums, universities and classrooms across the world. And the Nimrud Project wants to track them down.

Find the Obelisks!

Image 1: Replica Obelisks can be found in the most unexpected of places. At the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES), University of Cambridge, one stands between the lift and an emergency evacuation chair, overlooking the students hard at work in the library.View large image of the FAMES replica obelisk.

Know of an Obelisk replica? Send us a photo and show us your Shalmaneser! Whether it's out on display, in a teaching room, or hidden away in storage, we want to know about it.

And we will post the submissions to our Shalmaneserselfies Tumblr! The more the merrier (within reason): we'll happily post multiple shots of the same object by different people.

We've already made a start with the replica on the first-floor landing of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge (Image 1).

Where to find them

These are the museums that we know to have copies of the Black Obelisk. So if you live or study nearby, do pop in and take a photo for us.

But we know we haven't found them all. Can you help us expand the list? We expect colleges, universities, and museums to be the sorts of institutions that own replicas, but perhaps there will be others — churches, for instance? — that we haven't anticipated.

Tracing provenance

Image 2: An extract from Messrs. Brucciani's 1905 catalogue of British Museum casts and replicas, showing the entry for Shalmaneser III's Black Obelisk. View large image of the catalogue entry.

If you have access to your institution's archives or accession records, for instance if you are a staff member or a regular researcher there, you can also help us by trying to find out when and how your Obelisk arrived.

From at least the early twentieth century, the British Museum licensed Messrs. Brucciani & Co. Ltd. of 254 Goswell Road, London to manufacture casts of the obelisk and other artefacts. A 1905 catalogue [] advises that:

D. Brucciani & Co., Ltd.. will either hand over the Casts to the purchaser without packing, or, if requested to do so, will pack and dispatch them. The charge for packing is: For Casts to be delivered in Great Britain, 15 per cent. of the value; Cases and Packing to be returned. For Casts to be sent elsewhere, 40 per cent. The risk of breakage, or other injury, must be taken by the purchaser.

In 1905 the Black Obelisk — one amongst many Assyrian casts it offered — retailed for a bargain £3 10s 0d, roughly £310 ($520 or €385) at today's prices (Image 2). Can you find out how much your institution paid for theirs?

Replicas of other Mesopotamian artefacts

We're also very interested in knowing about casts and replicas of other ancient Mesopotamian artefacts, from tiny tablets and cylinder seals to enormous bas-reliefs. So if you don't have access to a replica Obelisk for a #shalmaneserselfie do send us photos and details of other modern Mesopotamian things.

31 Dec 2015 nimrud at oracc dot org

Ruth A. Horry & Eleanor Robson

Ruth A. Horry & Eleanor Robson, 'Replicas of the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III', Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production, The Nimrud Project at, 2015 []

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The Nimrud Project at / Content released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence, 2013-14
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