These are the technical terms used in this website.
- Chemical compound, formula
(CH3)2CO, used in museum conservation work as a
solvent, to remove dirt and unwanted material from the surface of
- Term for the Persian dynasty
and empire that ruled Babylonia (and the region from the Indus PGP Valley
to western Turkey),
539-330 BC. Named after their founding ancestor Achaemenes (r.705-675 BC).
- Greek word meaning "top of the
city"; used by some archaeologists to describe the large
citadel TT mound at
Nimrud and other Assyrian sites.
- acrylic paint
- Type of synthetic paint
which can be diluted with water but is water-resistant when dry. Used
in museum conservation work to cover modern restorations of
archaeological artefacts so that they blend in with them but can still
be distinguished from the original.
-  New Year festival, performed
over 11 days at the spring equinox, and featuring the gods'
renewal of the king's right to rule.  Also the name of a temple
outside the walls of a city, in which part of the akītu
festival was performed. King Sennacherib built an akītu temple for
the god Aššur just outside
Assur PGP .  At Kalhu,
an annual sacred
marriage TT ritual TT for Nabu and Tašmetu PGP .
language TT of ancient
Mesopotamia, conventionally divided into two dialects: Assyrian from the
north and Babylonian from the south. It was usually written in the
cuneiform TT script. See the writing practices section for
- Term for the type of light
used for the relief sculptures TT in Assyrian palaces, a form of calcium carbonate, formula
CaCO3. It is also known as
Mosul PGP marble because it was quarried from local deposits.
- Object thought to have healing powers, often with an image or inscription on it, and usually worn round the neck or attached to a person's clothes.
- Anglo-Iraqi Treaty
- Signed in 1948. The final one of three treaties between the United Kingdom and Iraq, the first signed in 1922, which were nominally declarations of alliance. In fact they gave a great deal of power to the UK, especially in matters of foreign relations, military planning, and natural resources such as oil. Despite a great deal of Iraqi opposition, the final treaty remained in force from 1948 to the end of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958.
- Being of human form. Beginning sometime in the third millennium BC, gods were imagined as having human form, although so far no divine statue has survived the ages.
- Literally, the study of antiquities. A precursor to modern archaeology, in which excavation is mostly seen as a means of recovering artefacts rather than as a source of useful data in itself.
- Akkadian TT word for "sage". Depending on context, refers to 
one of the mythical Seven Sages TT or  a
winged genie TT carved on Assyrian palace
reliefs TT . See also
fish-man TT .
- Preventative, designed to ward
off evil demons TT or
unfavourable events foretold by omens TT .
- Mythical underground source of all fresh
water, abode of the god Ea PGP and the Seven
Sages TT ; origin of the English word abyss.
language TT , spoken originally of ancient Syria but which
spread all over the ancient Middle East as it was written in a
convenient alphabetic script.
- Place where weapons are made,
stored, and/or issued, often used to describe Fort Shalmaneser in
- Ashmolean Museum
- The University of Oxford's
art and archaeology, founded in the 18th century to house the
collection of Elias Ashmole; a major recipient of artefacts from
Nimrud in the 1950s.
- Group of archaeological
artefacts found together in excavation, for instance, a collection of
tablets or vessels. Looking at assemblages can help archaeologists
understand the functions and values of individual objects as well as
the relationships between them, much better than studying them in
- Assyrian Expedition Fund
- Short-lived private venture set up in London to fund the archaeological work of William Kennett Loftus PGP in Assyria and Babylonia in 1853-4. It was seen as a rival to the British Museum's interests in the region and met with formidable opposition from Rawlinson PGP .
- The academic study of
ancient Assyria, especially its history and languages; nowadays also
used to mean the study of all cuneiform TT culture.
- Scholar TT responsible for
reading and interpreting omens TT from the positions of the stars,
planets, and other heavenly bodies, as well as the
- In Assyrian times,
astrologers TT divined
the gods' intentions for the future of the state through observing the
movements of the heavenly bodies and reading celestial omens TT from them; they did not cast
personal horoscopes on the basis of a client's birth date. See the
page on celestial and terrestrial divination at the Knowledge and
- Scholar TT who reads omens TT from the flights of birds in the
sky. In Kalhu, all attested augurs were from kingdoms to the northwest
- Carrying a good omen TT .
- At the end of the excavation season TT archaeologists re-fill their trenches with earth to preserve the finds that remain in situ and to prevent looting.
- Flat stone panel carved to
make the images on it stand slightly proud of their background. The
ceremonial spaces of Assyrian palaces were lined with alabaster TT bas-reliefs depicting scenes of military victory,
kingly piety, and divine protection.
- Kindly, doing good; often used
to describe genies TT and
other semi-divine beings. Its opposite is maleficent TT .
- The heavier fractions of crude
oil, which in Assyrian times were collected from springs on the
Euphrates PGP river,
and used for waterproofing, adhesive, medical, and ritual purposes.
- Another word for knob or protrusion;
a feature of Assyrian shields and some architectural
- Metal vessel for burning fuel
for heating or incense TT
- British Institute for the Study of Iraq
- London-based charitable
institute that promotes humanities and social science research and
education on all aspects of Iraq's history, culture, and
languages. Also known as BISI; successor to the British School of
Archaeology in Iraq TT .
- British Museum
- Public museum in London,
which was founded in the 1750s and greatly expanded a century later. The museum sponsored Layard PGP 's explorations at Nimrud and
in the 1840s and has been at the forefront of research on ancient
Assyria ever since.
- British School of Archaeology in Iraq
- Research organisation founded 1932 in memory of Gertrude
Bell PGP ; ran British excavations in Iraq until 1990,
including those directed by Max Mallowan PGP at Nimrud. Also known as
BSAI. Superceded by The British Institute for the Study of Iraq TT .
- Hard, tough metal alloyed from
copper and tin. Used in Assyria for weapons, large vessels, and elements of horse harnesses.
- buff ware
- Type of finely made unglazed pottery,
shaped into several different distinctive forms and
fired to a very pale brown ("buff") colour.
- Very fine and expensive type of
linen TT .
- In hieroglyphic Egyptian inscriptions, a
royal name surrounded by an oval line and a straight line underneath
or to the left.
- Large vessel suspended over an
open fire, for cooking or for heating liquids. In Assyrian times,
often made of bronze TT .
- Cedar trees are native to the east
coast of the Mediterranean Sea, especially the area of the Lebanon
mountain range. The Assyrians prized this strong yet flexible wood for
- Of the skies or heavens, including (for the Assyrians) the weather.
- The main shrine of a temple, where the statue of the god stood.
- Semi-precious stone composed of
quartz crystals, resulting in a wide range of colours, especially
greys and browns. Agate (dark brown and white bands) and carnelian (a
solid red) are both varieties of
chalcedony. All were favoured materials for seals TT in Assyrian
- Fortified area of a city, in
Assyrian times often on a high mound, where the royal palaces, elite
residences and major palaces were built. Archaeologists sometimes use
the alternative term acropolis TT .
- clay hand
- Architectural feature of
Assyrian palaces and temples in the shape of a larger-than-life fist with curled up fingers, made
of baked clay and sometimes inscribed in cuneiform TT . May have been used to support beams or as
decorative bosses TT .
- Note at the end of a scholarly
work, giving information such as the scribe TT and/or owner
of the tablet, the date and place of writing or copying, and/or the
reason it was made.
- colossal bull
- Huge alabaster TT statue of a
beneficent TT divine being, with a bull's body, human
head and large wings, placed on either side of a major entrance to an
Assyrian temple or palace. They have five legs so that they appear to
stand facing those that enter the gateway and walk out with those that
leave. At Kalhu alternative designs were lions and even fish at
- In modern editorial practice, a
text reconstructed from two or more ancient manuscripts to show how
the complete work may have looked originally.
- In modern archaeological and
museum practice, the work carried out on an ancient artefact to
protect and stabilise it so that it can withstand long-term storage,
public display, and handling by reearchers.
- Highly trained specialist technician in
the work of archaeological conservation TT .
- Person charged to represent a country's diplomatic and commercial interests in a particular city or region, instead of, or reporting to, an ambassador.
- Legal document recording the transfer of ownership of
a piece of land, whether through sale or inheritance.
- corn docket
- Legal document recording a
debt of corn. These clay tablets have a distinctive triangular shape
and are moulded around a piece of string, possibly indicating they
were used to secure a piece of parchment TT
(which no longer survives).
- Crimean War
- Fought in 1853-56, between Russia on one side and an alliance of the Ottoman TT empire, France and Great Britain on the other. It was nominally about the rights of Christians in the Ottoman-controlled "holy land" of the Levant PGP , but more deeply about territorial control of the Middle East. The war put a halt to European explorations and excavations in the Middle East for several years.
- crown prince
- Prince nominated by the
reigning king to succeed him, not necessarily his eldest son (or
indeed any son). See the page on the Assyrian royal family at the
Knowledge and Power website for more details.
- cultural heritage
- Legacy of the past
considered worth preserving, from archaeological sites and ancient
artefacts to traditions of music and dance, regardless of its monetary
- Complex system of writing made
of wedge-shaped TT impressions, usually made by a
stylus TT in the surface of a clay tablet or a
waxed writing board TT . Cuneiform had many
hundreds of different signs, which could take on different meanings
depending on their context. See the writing practices section for
- Person in charge of a museum collection, or part of it, usually with specialist academic knowledge of the field.
- Written in informal script, as
opposed to monumental
- Arabic and British English abbreviations respectively for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an extremist jihadi organisation which took control of much of northern Syria in 2013 and northern Iraq in 2014, including the area around Nimrud. Local people, and their cultural heritage TT and archaeology, have suffered terribly as a result.
- Daily Telegraph
- British newspaper, founded in 1855, which took a great interest in Assyrian archaeology in the first decades of its existence. in 1871 it sponsored an expedition to Nineveh PGP and Nimrud, headed by George Smith PGP , to find further cuneiform evidence for the Flood TT .
- date palm
- Date palms were commonly
cultivated in Babylonia PGP , both for their very sweet fruit
(the syrup of which was used as a sweetener instead of the much rarer
honey) and for their fronds, fibres and trunks which all had practical
uses. Because the trees were hand-pollinated they became a symbol of
fertility. See also sacred tree TT .
- day book
- Technical diary used, for
instance, by archaeologists and conservators TT to record their work
day by day.
- Demons were considered to be the
agents of death and illness. They were not fully under the control of
the gods, and could move easily between the divine and human
worlds. Many were visualised as being composed of body parts from a
variety of creatures. See also genie TT .
- Concerning change or sameness over time.
- Royal crown in the form of a highly
that runs all the way round the head.
- dig house
- On more remote archaeological sites,
the building(s) where the team lives and works on the objects it has excavated.
- Director-General of Antiquities
- Senior government official in charge of archaeology in Iraq, reporting to the Ministry of Culture TT . Their responsibility includes the management of Iraq's museums, local and international archaeological projects, and - before 1975 - overseeing division of finds TT . In the Mandate TT era, the DGA was always British or European; since independence the post has always been held by an Iraqi.
- Scholar TT who reads the gods'
intentions from omens TT ; see
also astrologer TT , augur TT ,
exorcist TT , and haruspex TT .
- division of finds
- Before Iraqi antiquities
law was amended in 1975, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage TT
agreed with archaeological teams at the end of each season TT which
excavated objects belonged to the Iraqi state and which could remain
the property of the excavators and leave the country. Nowadays under
Iraqi law all antiquities are state property and cannot be exported.
- Clay tablet which was originally
attached to another object, usually to serve as a label or legal document of some kind. Holes
for string or the impressions of long-perished sealings are typical
features of dockets.
- Drew Theological Seminary
- Training college for future Methodist TT ministers in New Jersey; now Drew University.
- East India Company
- British trading
company, founded in 1600, with a royally-granted monopoly on commerce with the
Indian subcontinent. It eventually became so thoroughly embroiled in
local governance and
politics that it was in practice a branch of the British goverment. It
had a Resident TT in
Basra PGP from 1763 and one in Baghdad PGP from 1798, to
secure overland communication routes and protect against the
French. EIC officials such as Claudius James Rich PGP and Henry Creswicke
Rawlinson PGP also became involved in the rediscovery of Assyria. The EIC was effectively nationalised and dissolved after the
so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857.
- Some cultic personnel received messages from the gods not through the
observation or induction of omens but through direct communication
while in a trance-like state. Ecstatic trances could be induced (for
instance by drugs or ritual actions) but could also overwhelm any
individual unexpectedly. See also prophet(ess) TT .
- Assyria exchanged diplomats with
its allies and vassal TT states who represented their rulers at the
foreign court and acted as their representatives in
oath-taking ceremonies. They also accompanied the annual
tribute TT due to the Assyrian king. The Assyrian term, ṣīru, literally means "excellency", reflecting the emissaries' high status.
- Enūma Anu Ellil
- The standard series of
omens TT ,
named after its first line: literally "When the gods Anu PGP , Ellil PGP (and Ea PGP established in council the plans of the sky and earth)".
- Epic of Creation
- The Epic of Creation existed in two forms. The Babylonian PGP version describes how the heroic god Marduk PGP defeated the monstrous sea Tiamat PGP and her evil army in a cosmic battle, created the world from her body, and thereby became head of the gods. The Assyrian version replaces Marduk with Aššur PGP . It was performed on the fourth day of the akītu TT festival.
- Adjective or phrase which describes a person or event, usually in a positive or negative light.
In the Assyrian empire, years were not counted but named after
the king, high officials and provincial governors. These people
are collectively called eponym officials. Scribes TT maintained
standard reference lists of eponyms, which are now invaluable
resources for understanding Assyrian chronology. However, the surviving
lists run out in the mid-seventh century BC, even though the system
continued to be used for several decades afterwards. These so-called
post-canonical eponym dates, whose order we cannot be sure of, are
typically marked with an asterisk, e.g., 620* BC.
- Twice a year, daytime and
nighttime are of equal length. In the modern dating system the spring
and autumn equinoxes fall on or near to 20 March and 23 September. In
Assyrian times the first appearance of the crescent moon in the
evening sky after the spring equinox signalled the new year. See also
akītu TT .
- Eton College
- British private school for
boys, founded in the 15th century. Highly infuential, it has educated
many future politicians, diplomats, and powerful men.
- Castrated man, usually a palace
- Euphrates Expedition
- Project funded by the British government and the East India Company TT in 1835, to determine whether or not the river Euphrates PGP could be used for river traffic to shorten the long journey between Britain and India. As part of their mapping duties, its members surveyed several archaeological sites near the river, including Nimrud.
- excavation season
- Period during
which an archaeological team is working on the excavation site, any
time from a few weeks to several months a year. The length and timing
of an excavation season depends on many factors, from the academic
teaching commitments of the archaeologists, the funding available for
the dig, and the typical weather conditions at the site.
- Explanation and interpretation of difficult passages of holy scripture.
- Traditional translation of a
type of scholar TT called āšipu in
Assyrian. Their intellectual
interests were wide but centred on healing. At the Assyrian court their expertise was often called to
ritually protect the king from harm.
- Divination through the
observation of the entrails of a
sacrificed sheep or ram, carried out by a haruspex TT .
- Glass-like material made of
crushed quartz or sand, mixed with small amounts of other
materials. It can be moulded and modelled like clay. When fired its
exterior turns a glassy blue or green, depending on the additives
- Small clay model or statue, often
used in rituals TT to represent supernatural beings - either
apotropaic TT genies TT to ward off evil, or the
demon TT or witch thought to be the cause of the
misfortune. Apotropaic figurines were preserved and ritually buried;
maleficent TT figurines were ritually destroyed,
sometimes by throwing them into a river.
- Location of discovery of an
archaeological artefact, ideally recorded in in three co-ordinates and
documented in relation to the surround assemblage TT and archaeological context.
- Hybrid demon TT or genie TT ,
half man and half fish, which was often associated with
the Seven Sages TT from before
the Flood TT .
An annual crop with beautiful blue flowers, native to the Middle East
and beyond. It is grown for its fibrous stalks, which are woven into
linen, and for its highly nutritious seeds, from which linseed oil is
Assyrian scholars divided past time into a mythical, primeval era
and more recent human history, demarcated by a great flood. As
well as one human family, rescued by the great god Ea PGP , seven
sages TT - half-human, half-fish - survived to bring the ancient
arts of civilisation to contemporary humanity.
- foundation course
- The lower part of a
wall, designed to remain underground or protrude only slightly above
it. In Assyrian times, foundation courses were often made of fired
brick, even when the rest of the building was made of less durable materials.
- foundation deposit
- Collection of ritual
objects ceremonially placed in the foundation of an Assyrian palace, temple or
fortification wall, often including a cuneiform TT inscription identifying and praising the initiator of the
construction work; in most cases, this was the
- Gantt chart
- Bar chart used to visualise
a project's schedule, showing multiple elements positioned on a timeline, named after its inventor.
- Sticky and thick like gelatine,
the key ingredient in jelly.
- Supernatural being that was
considered to protect human clients from demons TT and other maleficent TT forces. On the reliefs TT of the Northwest Palace at Kalhu, genies
were mostly depicted as human-like figures with wings, sometimes with
eagles' heads. See also apkallu TT .
- Glassy layer on the surface of some
types of pottery, applied as a powder or solution before firing and
used for decoration, waterproofing and/or to strengthen the vessel.
- Almost all Assyrian gold came
ultimately from Egypt PGP , whether through direct trade,
collection of tribute TT
from vassals TT or capture
of booty from conquered cities in the region.
- Highest official in a province TT of the Assyrian empire, personally selected and appointed by the king to govern this subdivision of the state on his behalf. In addition to their local administrative duties, governors were in charge of collecting and distributing taxes, and of mustering and supporting contingents of soldiers for the Assyrian army.
- Modern term for eagle-headed
with a lion's body, often with wings.
- Gulf War
- Fought January-February 1991. On 2 August 1990, the Iraqi army invaded neighbouring Kuwait, precipitating an international crisis. The United Natiosn first imposed a range of sanctions TT on the government of Iraq to force them to leave. When that appeared to have no effect, the UN backed an international coalition of armies, led United States of America. The war ended with Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait and an increased sanctions regime. In the aftermath of the war, anti-government rebellions in the south of Iraq were heavily quashed; some provincial TT museums were looted and damaged.
- In Assyriology TT , a black-and-white
scale drawing of a cuneiform tablet.
- Literally "house of the women": a
part of the royal palace containing the living quarters of the female
members of the court headed by the queen, managed by a female
guarded by a eunuch TT ..
- Type of scholar TT specialising in extispicy TT , i.e., determining the divine will by reading the entrails of sacrificed sheep; the Assyrian term is bārû.
- Period of c.300 years from the
death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, during which Greek language,
culture, and political power dominated the Middle East; also applied
to typical features of that era.
- How damp the air is; important to
control in museums and
conservation TT work because some ancient artefacts are particularly
sensitive to changes in humidity.
- Conventional meanings attached to images (such as love, for a heart); and the academic study of those meanings and the ways in which they are represented visually.
- Worship of idols; that is, images or statues of gods, saints or other divine beings.
- Illustrated London News
- Pioneering illustrated news magazine, which was founded in 1842 and folded in 2003, after decades of declining circulation. Throughout its history the ILN took a strong interest in the excavations and discoveries at Nimrud, and the arrival of finds at the British Museum.
- Mark left, especially on clay
tablets, by other objects such as seals TT , cloth, or fingernails pushed
into the surface.
- Words spoken or chanted in ritual TT context to communicate with a deity, demon TT , or genie TT .
- Mixture of aromatic plant products, designed to be burnt in a censer to release fragrant smoke during rituals TT .
- Grit, plant matter, and other
tiny particles in clay, often added deliberately; for instance to
increase its flexibility when working with it, or
help steam escape during firing so the pot doesn't
break. Tablet TT clay
may also have accidental or deliberate inclusions.
- inscribed brick
- Assyrian bricks were very
large, square and flat, more like modern paving stones than modern
house bricks. Some bricks used in important buildings such as temples
and palaces had a small inscription stamped into their top surface,
typically recording information such as the name and function of the
building, the king who commissioned it, and the god(s) who inspired him.
- Institute of Archaeology
a department of the University of London, now part of University
College London, this was the institutional base for Max Mallowan PGP (Professor
of Western Asiatic Archaeology, 1947-62) and
other members of the team who worked on Nimrud in the
- Iraq Museum
- Museum founded in the
1920s by Gertrude
Bell PGP in Baghdad PGP and now Iraq's national
museum. Holds many artefacts excavated from Nimrud in the 20th century.
- Iraq Petroleum Company
- Founded by a consortium of international companies after the discovery of oil in northern Iraq in 1927, the IPC held a virtual monopoly on oil production in Iraq for nearly half a century. It was nationalised in 1972.
- Iraq War
- The United States of America led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on the grounds that it had developed chemical, biological and/or nuclear weapons in contravention of the UN sanctions TT regime. Those claims proved unfounded but the Iraqi army was swiftly defeated and for many years Iraq remained occupied by international forces.
- Teeth or tusks of elephants or
hippopotami. Elaborately carved and inlaid ivory objects, from tiny
boxes to thrones and bedsteads, were highly prized by the
Assyrians. Large quantities of decorated ivory have been found by
archaeologists in Assyrian palaces, much of which seems to have been
plundered as booty from other cities. Ivory requires special conservation techniques.
- Object made to fit inside the narrow
opening of a pot or jug in order to stop its contents leaking
- Lamenters TT
used enormous hemispherical drums in their ritual TT performances to dooth divine
anger. The drums, made of oxhide and bronze, were themselves ritually
- Korean War
- Fought between North Korea and South Korea, June 1950-July 1950. The United States allied with the South, the Soviet Union with the North. It is seen by many historians as one of the starting points of the Cold War perios, several decades of heightened international tension during which capitalist western nations faced off against communist Eastern countried.
- Kuyunjik collection
- Large collection of cuneiform
tablets TT now housed in the British Museum TT , mostly found during Layard's PGP
excavations through the citadel TT mound at Nineveh PGP , whose modern
name is Kuyunjik. For more information see the Ashurbanipal Library
- label run
- Type of museum labelling where text is written on a long, thin label strip. Usually placed at the bottom of the case or on a shelf edge.
- Literally, "hairy": benevolent
protective spirit or genie TT in the form of a curly-haired hero.
- Scholar responsible for performing propitiatory (soothing,
or apologetic) rituals TT
with chanting and kettledrums to calm the gods' mood after a diviner TT
had detected unfavourable omens. The aim was to reverse the
gods' decision and persuade them to be favourable once more. The Assyrian word is kalû.
- landscape format
- Alternatively, horizontal
format: when a document is written with the script parallel to the
long edge. The opposite is portrait format TT .
- lapis lazuli
- Intensely blue semi-precious stone from Afghanistan that was highly valued in Assyria. Sparkling yellow flecks on the stone's surface were thought to resemble the twinkling stars in the night sky.
- Summoning part-time soldiers from their peacetime occupations, such as farming, in perparation for
- lexical list
- Scribal training invariably included the copying and memorisation of long, standardised lists of cuneiform signs, words and phrases, usually with both Sumerian and Akkadian spellings.
- Rituals TT often included the sacrifice of a liquid offering to a god or supernatural being. The libation, usually wine but sometimes also beer or milk, was poured into the ground from a special libation bowl.
- Mortar or cement, more particularly
its main ingredient, powered
calcium oxide (CaO), which is made by heating limestone to very high temperature.
- Linked Open Data
- Principle of structuring online
information, and allowing it to be reused, in order to intregrate data
on a common theme from many
- Egyptian white water-lily, which has
large round leaves that float on the water and large, many-petalled
flowers. Its highly characteristic buds, which bulge at the bottom,
taper in the middle and open wide at the top, were a popular motif in
ancient Near Eastern art, for instance on the Nimrud
ivories TT .
- Public museum in Paris, opened in 1793 during the French Revolution, in a grandiose former royal palace. Amongst its vast holdings are finds from Botta's PGP explorations in Assyria in the 1840s.
- Storeroom or warehouse,
especially for weapons.
- Literally "great one": a designation for one of the Assyrian king's senior political or military advisors.
- Doing evil. The opposite of
- Period, 1920-32, when Britain
ruled Iraq under a mandate issued by the League of Nations, a
forerunner to the United Nations. More generally, an official order to
act on someone's behalf.
- Type of crystalline limestone that
is particularly suitable for carving. Assyrian marble came from
quarries around modern-day Mosul PGP in the heartland of the empire. See also
alabaster TT .
- Either the representative of a city
(or a city quarter, as in Assur PGP ) or a temple (like the temple of Nabu in Kalhu); chosen by the king
from among the local population.
- Protestant TT Christian movement, founded in the eighteenth century, with an emphasis on social inclusion and therefore also missionary TT work.
- methylated spirits
- Solvent based on ethanol, formula CH3CH2OH, with various additives. Used by conservators TT for cleaning archaeological artefacts; useful because it can be mixed with water.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Large art museum in New York, founded in 1870, which was one of the major sponsors of the 1950s excavations at Nimrud. It houses a significant number of finds from the site.
- Engraving technique that enables the artist to depict very delicate differentations of shade and light.
- Before the advent of digital photography, an efficient way to reproduce documents and books in portable form was to photograph them onto film, which could then be read with a special magnifying machine.
- Middle Assyrian
- Period of Assyria's first major
empire, in the late second
millennium BC, c.1392-1056 BC; also the dialect of Akkadian TT and form of cuneiform TT script written at that
- Weight measure roughly equivalent to
0.5kg, which was divided into 60 shekels.
- Ministry of Culture
- Iraqi government ministry which manages archaeology in the country, and has done so for much of the country's history. For three years, 2012-2015, archaeology was under the direction of a separate Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
- Person sent to do religious
work in another country; particularly refers to nineteenth-century European and north
American Protestant TT Christians who tried to convert others to their religion.
- Mosul Museum
- Public museum in Mosul PGP which displayed antiquities from northern Iraq, especially from Nimrud, Nineveh PGP and Hatra. Closed for many years for refurbishment, it was ransacked by Da'esh/ISIS TT in early 2015.
- mud brick
- Bricks made of mud or clay and left to harden in the sun instead of being baked in a kiln. They are much cheaper to produce than baked bricks, and so were often used in antiquity. But they are not as weather-proof and are therefore problematic for restoration TT projects.
- natural history
- Study of nature and its history, through observation of natural objects; a counterpart to antiquarianism TT and a precursor to the modern disciplines of biology, botany, etc.
- Period of Assyria's greatest
empire, c.883-612 BC; also the dialect of Akkadian TT and form of cuneiform TT script written at that time.
- Period of Babylonian
imperial rule, c.623-539 BC; more generally the dialect of Akkadian TT and form of cuneiform TT script written in
in the first half of the first millennium BC.
- New Year Festival
- Religious festival
performed over several days at the spring equinox TT , and featuring the gods'
renewal of the king's right to rule; See akītu TT
- Nimrud Horse Lists
- Forty-two letters form
Nabu-šumu-iddina PGP ,
mayor TT of Nabu's temple in Kalhu, concerning
deliveries of horses to Fort
Shalmaneser. See further Royal liaison officers.
- Nimrud ivories
- Archaeologists have found
many thousands of carved, inlaid, and/or gilded
ivory TT fragments - of furniture, domestic objects and ornaments - at
Nimrud. They were mostly made in Egypt and the Levant and were taken
to Assyria as tribute or war booty. Specialist art historians study
their decorative motifs and styles of production. See the page on their object biographies and the page on their conservation for more details.
- Nimrud Wine Lists
- About 30 ration lists of
bread and wine found in Fort Shalmaneser, dating from the reigns of
III PGP and Tiglath-pileser III PGP . These texts may represent regular allocations to court personnel and
visiting dignitaries, or extra distributions on special occasions. See
also Scholars at court in 8th
- Tall, needle-like monument made of
a single piece of stone, often decorated with images and/or
inscribed with text. See for instance the Black Obelisk.
- Woman or man dedicated (often by
a patron or senior family member) to a deity, to work for and/or worship them in perpetuity.
- obverse, reverse
- Front and back of a
cuneiform tablet TT .
- Old Assyrian
- Period of Assur PGP 's greatest
influence as a city state, c.1910-1740 BC; also the dialect of Akkadian TT and form of cuneiform TT script written at that time.
- Plural sometimes "omina";
adjective "ominous". Assyrian omens take the form, "If X
is observed, then Y will happen", where X is any event or phenomenon
in the sky, on earth, or on a person's body. The outcome Y (which
could be favourable or unfavourable) was not inevitable but could
be averted by rituals TT
performed by expert lamenters TT . Specialist diviners TT such as astrologers TT , augurs TT , exorcists TT , and haruspices TT were responsible for
reading and interpreting ominous signs by means of standardised collections of omens.
- Message from the gods, usually
sent to a prophet(ess) TT through a dream or
trance; but it can also mean the divine answer to an extispicy TT
- Empire based in modern-day Turkey
that ruled the Middle East from the mid-fifteenth century to the eve
of the First World War; also a form of Turkish spoken and written in Arabic
- palace ware
- Finely made unglazed TT pottery
with few inclusions TT ,
in elegant shapes suitable for use by members of the royal court.
- Early form of paper, made from
the pith of the papyrus reed that grows in the Nile valley, and
imported into Assyria from Egypt PGP .
- In Assyria the parasol was as much a status symbol as it was a sun-shade. In palace bas-reliefs TT showing outdoor scenes, the Assyrian king is fequently depicted standing or sitting under a parasol, held aloft by a personal servant.
- Using a pen and ink, texts in
alphabetic Aramaic script were commonly recorded on leather scrolls. While the term "parchment" is frequently used as a translation for these scrolls, this is anachronistic and should be avoided as "parchment" refers to a very specific leather-derived product prepared according to a recipe not yet attested in Assyrian times.
governor TT of the Ottoman TT
- In the Assyrian court, a
scholar TT with particular responsibility for the physical wellbeing of the royal family; Assyrian asû.
- Picture Post
- Popular British weekly magazine, published from 1938 to 1957, featuring photographic essays on a range of journalistic topics. It was very different in style and politics to its more conservative rival The Illustrated London News TT .
- Flat object used for decoration or
display; may be made of precious materials and usually carries an
image and/or inscription.
board TT with several waxed writing surfaces hinged together.
- polyvinyl acetate
- Adhesive commonly known as PVA, formula (C4H6O2)n. Used by conservators TT to consolidate fragile organic materials such as ivory TT , or to glue pieces together.
- Fruit tree native to the
Middle East, whose sweet multi-seeded fruit was popular as a food and,
symbolising fertility, also in rituals TT .
- portrait format
- Alternatively, vertical
format: when a document is written with the script parallel to the
short edge. The opposite is landscape format TT .
- postern gate
- Minor or private entrance.
- Also sherd; a broken fragment of
- Individual who receives
messages from the gods through oracles TT . They can be attached to a temple.
- Christian who does not
recognise the authority of the Pope; for instance followers of the
Church of England. In the nineteenth century, some British and
American Protestant churches sent missionaries TT to the Middle East to
try and convert Muslims and Catholic Christians to their faith.
- In US English, provenience. The life history and/or origins of
an artefact, including past ownership and, for archaeological objects, any findspot TT information. Also refers to documentary evidence of
this life history.
- Large-scale administrative unit
of an empire. Assyria was divided into about 70 provinces, each under
the control of a governor (Assyrian pāhutu or bēl
pāhete) personally appointed
by the king. The three provinces (vilayets) of the
Ottoman TT empire
that roughly correspond to modern-day Iraq were centred on
Mosul PGP ,
Baghdad PGP and Basra PGP . Each was governed by a pasha TT . Iraq is now divided into 19 provinces or governorates, including the three that make up Kurdistan.
- Literally "woman of the palace": the
official wife of the Assyrian king and usually also the mother of the
crown prince TT . Many of the early Neo-Assyrian TT queens were buried in the Northwest Palace.
- queen mother
-  The widow of the preceding king;  the ruling king's
- registration number
- Unique number assigned to an object upon entry to a museum collection. Used for identification purposes and usually inscribed upon the object itself.
- See bas-relief TT .
- Post of senior representative of
the East India
Company TT (EIC) and/or that person's official residence; in
Mesopotamia there were EIC Residencies at Basra PGP and Baghdad PGP .
- Archaeological restoration involves preserving a building or settlement to help give researchers and visitors a sense of what it must have originally been like. Restoration should not damage the original fabric of the structure but it should also protect it from wear and tear. A closely related method is reconstruction, which uses new materials in the restoration. Good reconstruction projects are careful to differentiate the original structure from the new additions.
- ring base
- Many pots and containers are
made with flat bases so that they can stand upright
unsupported. Others have rounded bases to enable easy internal
cleaning, or even heat distribution when suspended over a fire. In
some cases, either of these types may have an extra horizontal ring added to the
base for increased stability.
- rite, ritual
- At its simplest, a ritual is
a socially agreed set of symbolic actions and/or utterances, performed
in a stylised way. Rituals may be performed at set times or as the
need arises. In Assyria rituals could have any combination of
religous, magical, political, social, or healing significance; they
could be perfomed by scholars TT or priests on behalf of a client (such as the king). The word "rite" is usually reserved to describe predominantly religious rituals.
- rock crystal
- Transparent type of quartz stone
which looks like modern glass.
- Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
- London-based learned society
founded in 1823 to study the history, languages, cultures and
religions of Asia, from the Middle East to the Far East and still in
existence today. In 1830 the
Literary Society (which had been running for some 25 years already)
affiliated with it as the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society,
publishing its own journal.
- sacred marriage
- Ritual TT
in which two deities, or a goddess and a king, were symbolically
united. At Kalhu, the akītu TT ritual featured an annual marriage
between the gods Nabu and
Tašmetu PGP .
- sacred tree
- Modern name for the highly
stylised tree shown on bas-reliefs TT in the ceremonial spaces
of Assyrian palaces, especially the Northwest Palace in Kalhu.
- Wise person; in Assyria, one of the
seven semi-divine scholars from before the great Flood TT , who brought
wisdom and learning to humankind.
- In August 1990, in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the United Nations imposed a heavy ban on international trade and communication with Iraq. The original aim was to force the withdrawal of Iraqi troops without declaring war. However, even after the 1991 Gulf War TT , the sanctions regime remained in place and was tightened further. It began to be lifted only after Iraq War TT of 2003.
- Monumental coffin, usually
made of stone.
- Semi-precious stone cut in the
shape of an oval beetle, with an inscription or decoration carved on
the flat underside; often used as a seal TT .
- The Assyrian court employed a
variety of learned, literate men to advise the king on his
relationship with the gods. The scholars included astrologers TT , augurs TT , exorcists TT , haruspices TT , lamenters TT , and scribes TT . Such roles, and the specialist education they entailed, were often handed down within families.
- Professionally literate person,
who may have been as lowly as a secretary or as eminent and powerful
as the king's senior scholar TT . Scribes might write on
papyrus TT or
writing boards TT as well as, or instead of, clay tablets TT .
- seal, sealing
- Tablets TT ,
writing boards TT ,
papyri TT , and other
objects could be sealed with clay, either to prevent unauthorised
access to them or to mark them with the symbol of the official or
individual responsible for them. The sealing official either impressed
the clay with a stamp-seal, or rolled out the inscribed or decorated
surface of a cylinder-seal, and left it to dry before releasing the object.
- Semitic language
- Akkadian TT , Aramaic TT , and
Hebrew and Arabic, amongst other languages, all share a set of common
features. One of the monst important of these is that the basic
meanings of words are carried by two to four root consonants,
regardless of their grammatical function. The same roots may be
shared, or changed a little, across Semitic languages too.
- Large knife with a curved blade, used for harvesting grain but also as a weapon.
- In Assyrian times, most silver came
from mines around the area of Que PGP in the northwest of the empire.
- Society for Biblical Archaeology
society of Egyptologists and Assyriologists, founded in London in 1870
to discuss, publish, and promote research (not just archaeology) on
the ancient Middle East (not just the Biblical lands). In the early
20th century its membership declined dramatically as these subjects became increasingly
embedded in British universities and it was eventually wound up.
- Impression of an inscription or
carving made by pressing layers wet paper into it, leaving the paper
to dry, and then peeling it off. The result is a mirror image of the
original. Squeezes were a useful means of accurately copying
inscriptions on immovable objects before photography became reliable
but they were also fragile and difficult to reproduce.
- Standard Babylonian
- Literary dialect of Akkadian TT in the first millennium BC, used in Assyria as well as Babylonia PGP .
- State Board of Antiquities and Heritage
- Iraqi government authority in charge of
managing archaeology, museum work, and related research, under the
direction of the Ministry of Culture TT .
- stela, stele
- Plural stelae. Large, standing stone monument, carved with inscriptions and/or images.
- Two slightly different photographic images, designed to be viewed together - one by the right eye, the other by the left - in order to create a sense of visual depth.
clear stratigraphy TT ;
unstratified excavation sites have usually been disturbed before the
arrival of the archaeologists, for instance by long-ago burials or
building works, or the activities of farmers or burrowing animals.
- Archaeological study of
the different layers, or strata, left by human (or animal) occupation
of a building or settlement over time. Individual stratigraphic layers
often show up as different colours, textures or densities of earth in
- Pointed writing implement, the
size and shape of a pen, used to impress cuneiform TT signs on the surface of a
tablet TT or a
board TT .
- In the Assyrian context,
ensuring that the ruling king's nominated successor, his
crown prince TT ,
becomes king in his turn.
- Archaeological survey involves investigating the surface of a site, or series of sites. It may include techniques such as examining pottery and other artefacts found on the surface in order to date the site, mapping the contours of the site(s), or taking soil samples at regular intervals.
- Most simply, a document made of
clay, on which cuneiform TT writing was impressed with
a reed stylus TT .
- Tablet of Destinies
lazuli TT tablet TT
owned by the gods, on which they inscribed the fate of humankind. It was stolen by
the evil Anzu PGP and
reclaimed by the god Ninurta. Likewise, the
Seal TT of
Destinies was used by the gods to sign particularly important
documents such as Esarhaddon's succession treaties.
- temple steward
- While the Assyrian term
lahhinnu is a loan from a Hurrian word of unknown meaning, it is clear
that it designates a high-ranking administrative temple
- topographical map
- In archaeology, a map that details the contours of a site, often in order to determine where the remains of structures mihght be lying under the surface.
- Decorative metal band worn tightly around
the arm, emphasising the wearer's muscles; appears frequently on the
king and genies TT on
bas-reliefs TT .
- Act of betraying one's country, or
its current ruler.
- In archaeology, a narrow,
rectangular hole cut into the surface of a site, layer by layer in
order to expose and record the site's stratigraphy TT and any artefacts
found in that context.
- Annual payment by a vassal TT state
to the Assyrian king, either handed over at the border to a
governor TT or delivered
by emissaries TT to the
king in person. This second option was seen as more dignified and prestigious.
- type series
- In archaeology, a collection
of artefacts, especially pottery, that systematically shows a representative range
and variety of shapes found at a particular site from a particular
period in the past. This series of typical artefacts then serves as a
standard reference set to help date or categorise
material found at other sites.
- In relation to Assyria, a
neighbouring state which was loyal to Assyria and paid regular
tribute TT to ensure
Assyria's continuing protection and friendship but was still nominally
independent from it.
- Gluey or sticky; see also
gelatinous TT .
- Very senior official
(magnate TT ) in the king's
personal retinue, who held high administrative functions within the
empire and commanded a border province TT of key strategic
- Object or person dedicated to a
deity, thereby becoming the property of the temple; see also
oblate TT .
- water buffalo
- Large cattle with huge horns
which spend a lot of time in rivers and marshes, and eat reeds and
other aquatic plants. They are very
strong and docile draft animals, and produce
highly nutritious milk. Water buffalos probably originate in India but
there have been significant populations in southern Iraq since at
least the third millennium BC.
- Basic component of cuneiform TT script made by pushing the
edge of a stylus TT into the
surface of a clay tablet TT
and lifting it up again. For more detail see the Cuneiform Revealed [http://oracc.org/saao/knpp/cuneiformrevealed/aboutcuneiform/wedgesandsigns/#h_wedges] website.
- West Semitic
- Subgroup of the
languages TT from Syria and the Levant PGP ; Akkadian TT , by contrast, is the only
Eastern member of this language family.
- winged disk
- Symbol originating in
ancient Egypt PGP , consisting of a round centre flanked by two horizontal
wings. On Assyrian palace bas-reliefs TT it is always shown
close the king's head. It may represent the divine aspect of
kingship, or the sun-god Šamaš PGP or a
combination of the two.
- writing board
- Scribes TT
often wrote on wooden boards which were covered in a thin layer of
wax. The wax could be warmed to smooth the surface and erase the
writing on it. Writing boards had the advantage of being more portable
than tablets TT and could
be hinged together to form polyptychs TT . Fortunately for modern
scholarship, in Assyrian times the perishable writing board never completely replaced the relatively indestructible tablet TT - or we would have almost no surviving written evidence to work with.
- Stepped tower in or near a
temple precinct and itself a place of worship as well as a major
landmark and symbol of a city's prestige. In Kalhu the ziggurat was
associated with Ninurta's
Content last modified: 31 Dec 2015.