What has a curly beard that would make Santa Claus jealous, feathered wings and a muscular physique? No, it’s not Ozzy Osbourne on tour – you are forgiven – it’s the celestial being, the Lamassu.
A sculpture of this mythical creature dating back to the 8th Century BC was unearthed on Tuesday by archaeologists in northern Iraq, largely intact despite its huge dimensions.
Many of these towering winged alabaster deities were stationed at the entrances of ancient cities across the Neo-Assyrian Empire, now modern-day Iraq.
Boasting the head of a man, the body of a bull and the wings of an eagle, these monuments symbolised intelligence, strength and freedom. Female versions also existed and were called ‘apsasu’.
Weighing 18 tonnes, and carved from a single piece of limestone, the head was confiscated from smugglers in the 90s.
“The head of the Lamassu was cut away and was stolen and recovered during the 90s by the customs in Baghdad. I think now the head is in the Baghdad museum. The rest of the body was found here and is in excellent shape” said Pascal Butterlin, a professor of Archeology at Paris Sorbonne University.
First mentioned in the 19th century by French archaeologist Victor Place, the relief dropped from public records until the 1990s when Iraqi authorities earmarked it for “urgent intervention”.
It was originally erected at the entrance to the ancient city of Khorsabad, some 15 kilometres north of the modern city of Mosul.
It was commissioned during the reign of King Sargon II who ruled from 722 to 705 BC and erected at the city’s gates to provide protection
“We can now study the whole context of this beautiful gate which might still be in very good condition” continued Butterlin.
“I never unearthed anything this big in my life before,” Butterlin said of the piece measuring 3.8 by 3.9 metres “Normally, it’s only in Egypt or Cambodia that you find pieces this big.
“The attention to detail is unbelievable,” said the professor of Middle East archaeology at the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne.
It was during this period that looters pillaged the head and chopped it into pieces to smuggle it abroad.
The rest of the relief was spared the destruction wreaked by the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran the area in 2014. Residents of the modern village of Khorsabad reportedly hid it before fleeing to government-held territory.
Mysterious 5,500-Year-Old Sumerian Star Map Recorded Massive Asteroid Hit To Earth
A 5,500-year-old clay tablet discovered in the 19th century in the underground library of King Ashurbanipal in Nineveh is an astronomical treasure.
The ancient “document” excavated in present-day Iraq by Sir Henry Layard offers unprecedented insight into astronomical observations that took place more than 5,500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. Long believed to be an Assyrian tablet, computer analysis that compared it to Mesopotamia’s sky in 3300 BC has revealed that it actually has much older Sumerian origins.
The “Astrolabe,” the earliest known astronomical instrument, is depicted on the tablet. It consists of a segmented disk-shaped star chart with rim markings for the many angles that can be measured. For more than 150 years, experts have been baffled by the ancient clay tablet housed in the British Museum. The Cuneiform tablet No. K8538 in the British Museum collection is known as “the Planisphere.” (Source)
Over 5,600 years ago, an amazing event occurred when a kilometer-long asteroid collided with the Alps in Köfels, Austria. Unfortunately, significant portions of the planisphere on this tablet (approximately 40%) are missing, due to damage caused by the sacking of Nineveh. The reverse of the tablet is not inscribed.
Archibald Sayce and Robert Bosanquet discovered the tablet’s astronomical relation in 1880 and named it “Astrolabe.” Leonard William King took the first step toward content analysis by creating a picture facsimile of the tablet. In 1912, his work was published.
The image facsimile of the cuneiform writing signs is perfectly transliterated, but he did not translate the facsimile signs into modern language. He joined an archaeological expedition to the same site at Nineveh hoping to find other astronomical tablets with additional information, but nothing useful was ever found. King presumed that K8538 was a “Planisphere,” showing the night sky over Nineveh.
Three years later, in 1915, Ernst F. Weidner released his work on K8538. He made an effort to decipher each of the 8 distinct tablet parts on the book’s six pages, but the text remained a mystery to him. He described it as “magic.” Because the star distributions on the tablet do not match those in the Nineveh sky, he rejected King’s term “Planisphere.”
Two authors, Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell ultimately made significant advances twenty years later. They note in the introduction to their book that, up until 2008, “there has never been a comprehensive and consistent translation of this unique tablet [which] might relate to an impact of a Near Earth Object.” (Source)
They re-translated the cuneiform inscription and claimed the tablet recorded the Köfels’ Impact, an ancient asteroid strike that struck Austria somewhere around 3100 BC. This caused a stir in the archaeological community.
Since geologists first examined the massive landslide in the 19th century, it has been a mystery. It is 500m deep and has a five-kilometer circle. It is situated near Köfels in Austria. Due to the evidence of crushing pressures and explosions, researchers in the middle of the 20th century came to the conclusion that it must have been caused by a very huge meteor impact.
Since Köfels lacks a crater, it does not appear as an impact site should to modern eyes. The idea that it is just another landslide, however, does not account for the facts that confounded the prior experts. What ties the complex Sumerian star chart found in the Nineveh library’s subterranean to the enigmatic impact that happened in Austria?
The clay tablet may be examined to determine that it is an astronomical work because it features drawings of constellations and names of recognized constellations in the text. Although it has received a lot of attention, no one has offered a credible explanation for what it is after more than a century.
The researchers have identified what the Planisphere tablet alludes to using contemporary computer algorithms that can mimic trajectories and recreate the night sky thousands of years ago. The K8538 observation tablet was created by an unknown alert Sumerian astronomer who recognized the historical significance of the event on his astronomical lookout tower and decided to record it. Bond and Hempsell dubbed him “Lugalansheigibar – the great man who observed the sky.”
Half of the tablet records planet positions and cloud cover, just like any other night, but the other half records an object large enough to note its shape even though it is still in space. The astronomers accurately recorded its trajectory relative to the stars, which is consistent with an impact at Köfels to within one degree of error.
The observation indicates that the asteroid is larger than a kilometer in diameter and that its original orbit around the Sun was an Aten type, a class of asteroid that orbits close to the Earth and is resonant with the Earth’s orbit.
This trajectory explains why there is no crater at Köfels. The incoming angle was very low (six degrees), which means the asteroid clipped a mountain called Gamskogel above the town of Längenfeld, 11 kilometers from Köfels, causing the asteroid to explode before it reached its final impact point. It grew into a five-kilometer-wide fireball as it traveled down the valley (the size of the landslide).
When it hit Köfels, it created enormous pressures that pulverized the rock and caused the landslide, but it did not create a classic impact crater because it was no longer a solid object.
Mark Hempsell, discussing the Köfels event, said: “Another conclusion can be made from the trajectory. The back plume from the explosion (the mushroom cloud) would be bent over the Mediterranean Sea re-entering the atmosphere over the Levant, Sinai, and Northern Egypt.”
“The ground heating though very short would be enough to ignite any flammable material – including human hair and clothes. It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast.”
As a very rare scientific observation tablet, the K8538 provides comparative facts that aid in realistic forecasts of asteroid devastation and the resulting megadroughts on Earth. The British Museum is now in charge of preserving and protecting this valuable document, which was created by Sumerian astronomer Lugalansheigibar.
A large stone monument depicting the goddess Ishtar has been unearthed in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud
Archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, working with an Iraqi excavation team, have unearthed a large stone monument depicting the goddess Ishtar in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.
Archaeologists have uncovered more monumental finds in Nimrud, one of the heritage sites severely damaged by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq.
Among the new relics discovered at the site are those from a 3,000-year-old temple dedicated to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war and the goddess with the earliest written evidence.
During earlier excavations in Nimrud, the same team revealed a 2,800-year-old palace belonging to an Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III, who reigned from 810–783 BCE.
This season, the team continued working inside the palace and expanded its efforts to include the Temple of Ishtar, which burned when Nimrud was sacked by an invading army in 612 BCE.
Chief among their finds were fragments of a large stone monument that depicts the goddess Ishtar inside a star symbol.
“Our greatest find this season was a spectacular fragment from the stone stele that shows the goddess Ishtar inside a star symbol. This is the first unequivocal depiction of the goddess as Ishtar Sharrrat-niphi, a divine aspect of the goddess associated with the rising of the planet Venus, the ‘morning star,’ to be found in this temple dedicated to her,” Dr. Michael Danti, Program Director of the Iraq Heritage Stabilization Program and archeologists at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
This season’s new discoveries largely focus on the splendor of Adad-Nirari III’s rule and ancient Nimrud’s affluence.
Two enormous stone column bases that the archaeologists discovered suggest the palace was grandly decorated with exquisitely carved columns.
Evidence of a sizable stone basin, which the researchers think may have served as a central heating system, was found inside the throne room.
In addition, they discovered scattered pieces of ostrich eggshell and ivory, both of which were rare and would have been extremely valuable in the early Bronze Age.
5,500-Year-Old Sumerian Star Map History in Recorded: The Impact Of A Massive Asteroid
For more than 150 years scientists have tried to solve the mystery of a notorious cuneiform clay tablet that reveals that in the past the impact case of so-called Köfel was detected. The circular stone-cast tablet was discovered in the late 1800s from the 650 BC King Ashurbanipal‘s underground library in Nineveh, Iraq.
Data processing, which was long believed to be an Assyrian tablet, mirrored the sky over Mesopotamia in 3300 BC and proved to be much more ancient in Sumerian origin.
The tablet is the first astronomical instrument, the “Astrolabe.” It consists of a segmented, disk-shaped star chart with marked units of angle measure inscribed upon the rim.
Unfortunately, considerable parts of the planisphere on this tablet are missing (approximately 40%), damage which dates to the sacking of Nineveh. The reverse of the tablet is not inscribed.
Still under study by modern scholars, the cuneiform tablet in the British Museum collection No K8538 (known as “the Planisphere”) provides extraordinary proof for the existence of sophisticated Sumerian astronomy. In 2008 two authors, Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell published a book about the tablet called “A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels’ Impact Event”.
Raising a storm in archaeological circles, they re-translated the cuneiform text and assert the tablet records an ancient asteroid strike, the Köfels’ Impact, which struck Austria sometime around 3100 BC.
The giant landslide centered at Köfels in Austria is 500m thick and five kilometers in diameter and has long been a mystery since geologists first looked at it in the 19th century.
The conclusion drawn by research in the middle 20th century was that it must be due to a very large meteor impact because of the evidence of crushing pressures and explosions. But this view lost favor as a much better understanding of impact sites developed in the late 20th century.
In the case of Köfels, there is no crater, so to modern eyes, it does not look as an impact site should look. However, the evidence that puzzled the earlier researchers remains unexplained by the view that it is just another landslide.
So what is the connection between the sophisticated Sumerian star chart discovered in the underground library in Nineveh and the mysterious impact that took place in Austria?
Examination of the clay tablet reveals that it is an astronomical work as it has drawings of constellations on it and the text has known constellation names. It has attracted a lot of attention but in over a hundred years nobody has come up with a convincing explanation as to what it is.
With modern computer programs that can simulate trajectories and reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago, researchers have established what the Planisphere tablet refers to. It is a copy of the night notebook of a Sumerian astronomer as he records the events in the sky before dawn on 29 June 3123 BC (Julian calendar).
Half the tablet records planet positions and cloud cover, the same as any other night, but the other half of the tablet records an object large enough for its shape to be noted even though it is still in space.
The astronomers made an accurate note of its trajectory relative to the stars, which to an error better than one degree is consistent with an impact at Köfels. The observation suggests the asteroid is over a kilometer in diameter and the original orbit about the Sun was an Aten type, a class of asteroid that orbit close to the Earth, that is resonant with the Earth’s orbit.
This trajectory explains why there is no crater at Köfels. The incoming angle was very low (six degrees) which means the asteroid clipped a mountain called Gamskogel above the town of Längenfeld, 11 kilometers from Köfels, and this caused the asteroid to explode before it reached its final impact point. As it traveled down the valley it became a fireball, around five kilometers in diameter (the size of the landslide). When it hit Köfels it created enormous pressures that pulverized the rock and caused the landslide but because it was no longer a solid object it did not create a classic impact crater.
Mark Hempsell, discussing the Köfels event, said: “Another conclusion can be made from the trajectory. The back plume from the explosion (the mushroom cloud) would be bent over the Mediterranean Sea re-entering the atmosphere over the Levant, Sinai, and Northern Egypt.
“The ground heating though very short would be enough to ignite any flammable material – including human hair and clothes. It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast.”
In other words, the remarkable ancient star map shows that the Sumerians made an observation of an Aten asteroid over a kilometer in diameter that impacted Köfels in Austria in the early morning of 29th June 3123 BC.
Atlanta FBI agents started investigating the stolen art last year. The artifact turned up at an Emory University museum in 2006.
The FBI announced Thursday that the U.S. has returned a stolen Iraqi artifact that has been missing for 20 years, officials said.
The “Furniture Fitting with Sphinx Trampling a Youth” first disappeared in Baghdad in 2003.
It was recently being held at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta before it was returned. The Carlos Museum purchased the artifact from a third party in 2006.
The FBI said that the party used a fake record with the wrong date the artifact entered the country.
“While we realize there was no ill intent on behalf of Emory University, we are glad our agents could return a small part of history back to where it belongs in Iraq,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in charge of FBI Atlanta.
Atlanta FBI Agents began investigating the theft last year in January. Officials with the Emory museum handed over the artifact to FBI Atlanta agents last December.
According to historians, the art dates back to the Iron Age, which happened in the 7th Century B.C. It is made of ivory, pigment and gold leaf.
Officials held a ceremony Wednesday at the Iraqi Embassy in the nations capital where the special agent team presented the artifact to an Iraqi official.
The team signed documents at the ceremony where they made it the artifact’s return to Iraq official.
Agents believe the artifact was stolen during the looting of the Iraq Museum in 2003. Experts determined it was stolen from the Iraq Museum using photographs.
“The protection of the world’s cultural heritage is a priority for the U.S. Government,” said Special Agent Rafael Jimenez.
Officials said the piece was stolen with thousands of other priceless artifacts.
Discovery of 4,500-year-old palace in Iraq may hold key to ancient civilisation
It has been described by the director of the British Museum as “one of the most fascinating sites” he has has ever visited, but the archaeologist who led the discovery of a lost Sumerian temple in the ancient city of Girsu has said he was accused of “making it up” and wasting funding.
Dr Sebastien Rey led the project that discovered the 4,500-year-old palace in modern-day Iraq – thought to hold the key to more information about one of the first known civilisations.
The Lord Palace of the Kings of the ancient Sumerian city Girsu – now located in Tello, southern Iraq – was discovered during fieldwork last year by British and Iraqi archaeologists. Alongside the ancient city, more than 200 cuneiform tablets were discovered, containing administrative records of the ancient city.
Archaeologists and workers excavate the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, located in modern-day Tello, Iraq.
Rey said that when he first brought up the project at international conferences no one believed him. “Everyone basically told me, ‘Oh no you’re making it up you’re wasting your time you’re wasting British Museum UK government funding’ – that’s what they were telling me,” he said.
Girsu, one of the earliest known cities in the history of humankind, was built by the ancient Sumerians, who between 3,500 and 2,000 BC invented writing, built the first cities and created the first codes of law. The ancient city was first discovered 140 years ago, but the site has been the target of looting and illegal excavations.
The discovery is the result of the Girsu Project, an archeological collaboration, established in 2015, led by the British Museum and funded by the LA-based Getty Museum.
Alongside the discovery of the palace and the tablets, the main temple dedicated to the Sumerian god, Ninĝirsu, was also identified. Before this pioneering fieldwork, its existence was known only from ancient inscriptions discovered alongside the first successful excavation of the ancient city.
The project follows the Iraqi scheme first funded by the British government in response to the destruction of important heritage sites in Iraq and Syria by Islamic State. Since its establishment, more than 70 Iraqis have been trained to conduct eight seasons of fieldwork at Girsu.
The first mud brick walls of the palace, which were discovered last year, have since been held in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The Sumerians inhabited the ancient eastern Mediterranean region of Mesopotamia, and were responsible for many technological advancements, including measurements of time as well as writing.
The excavation site in Tello, Iraq
According to Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, the site of the ancient city in southern Iraq was “one of the most fascinating sites I’ve ever visited”.
He said: “The collaboration between the British Museum, state board of antiquities and heritage of Iraq, and the Getty represents a vital new way of building cooperative cultural heritage projects internationally. We are delighted that today’s visit could celebrate the recent discoveries that are the result of this collaboration, and continue the British Museum’s long-term commitment to the protection of the cultural heritage of Iraq, the support of innovative research, and the training of the next generation of Iraqi archaeologists at Girsu.
“While our knowledge of the Sumerian world remains limited today, the work at Girsu and the discovery of the lost palace and temple hold enormous potential for our understanding of this important civilisation, shedding light on the past and informing the future.”
The ancient Sumerians may not be as well known a civilisation as the ancient Egyptians or Greeks, but according to Dr Timothy Potts, the directory of the Getty Museum, Girsu is “probably one of the most important heritage sites in the world that very few people know about”.
He added: “Through its collections, exhibitions, research and publications the Getty seeks to promote the understanding and preservation of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage.
“The ancient world has been a particular focus of the museum’s programmes at the Getty Villa, and we are therefore delighted to have partnered with the British Museum on the Girsu Project in Iraq.
“This innovative programme provides critical support for the uniquely important archaeological site of Girsu, through the training of Iraqi specialists entrusted with its development for sustainable archaeology and tourism.”
Iraq’s culture minister, Ahmed Fakak Al-Badrani, said: “The British archaeological excavations in Iraq will further unveil significant ancient eras of Mesopotamia, as it is a true testimony to the strong ties between the two countries to enhance the joint cooperation between the two countries.”
The Sumerians explainer Who were they?
The Sumerians were the inhabitants of Sumer, which is the earliest known civilisation in the historical region of Mesopotamia, located in modern-day southern Iraq. According to archaeological evidence, they built about a dozen city-states in the fourth millennium BC.
Girsu, which is located in Tello, Iraq, was first discovered 140 years ago, and was significant in that it first revealed to the world the existence of the Sumerian civilisation, as well as bringing to light some of the most vital monuments of Mesopotamian art and architecture.
What did they invent?
The Sumerians were ancient pioneers, having advanced the craft of writing, writing literature, hymns and prayers. They built the first known cities as well as creating the first known code of law. They also perfected several existing forms of technology, including the wheel, the plough and mathematics.
The epic of Gilgamesh, considered the world’s oldest surviving piece of literature, derives from five Sumerian poems.
They were also notably one of the first civilisations to brew beer, which was seen by the ancient people as a key to a healthy heart and liver.
5,000-year-old ‘tavern’ discovered on an archeological dig
Archeologists unearthed a 5,000-year-old “tavern” in one of southwest Asia’s earliest cities.
A team of researchers studying the archeological site of Lagash in southern Iraq uncovered the public eating space, which dates back to 2700 B.C., according to the University of Pennsylvania.
The area was replete with benches, a type of clay refrigerator referred to as a “zeer,” an oven, and storage containers, many of which still contained food.
The area was replete with benches, a type of clay refrigerator referred to as a “zeer,” an oven, and storage containers.Lagash Archaeological Project
The tavern was discovered during an excavation in Lagash which sought items illustrating what life was like in the urban neighborhood.
“The site was of major political, economic, and religious importance,” Holly Pittman, a professor in Penn’s History of Art department, told the university. “However, we also think that Lagash was a significant population center that had ready access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive craft production.”
Pittman likened the ancient metropolis to the city of Trenton, N.J., once known for being the East Coast’s center of manufacturing.
“In that way the city might have been something like Trenton,” she explained, “as in ‘Trenton makes, the world takes,’ a capital city but also an important industrial one.”
Residues in Mesopotamia’s Mass-Produced Pottery Analyzed
The world’s first urban state societies developed in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, some 5500 years ago. No other artefact type is more symbolic of this development than the so-called Beveled Rim Bowl (BRB), the first mass-produced ceramic bowl.
BRB function and what food(s) these bowls contained have been the subject of debate for over a century. A paper published today in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports shows that BRBs contained a variety of foods, but especially meat-based meals, most likely bone marrow-flavoured stews or broths.
Chemical compounds and stable isotope signatures of animal fats were discovered in BRBs from the Late Chalcolithic site of Shakhi Kora located in the Upper Diyala/Sirwan River Valley of north-eastern Iraq.
An international team led by Professor Claudia Glatz of the University of Glasgow has been carrying out excavations at Shakhi Kora since 2019 as part of the Sirwan Regional Project.
BRBs are mass-produced, thick-walled, conical vessels that appear to spread from southern, lowland sites such as Uruk-Warka across northern Mesopotamia, into the Zagros foothills, and beyond. BRBs are found in their thousands at Late Chalcolithic sites, often associated with monumental structures.
Stylised BRBs appear on the earliest written documents, early cuneiform tablets, and are conventionally interpreted as ration containers used to distribute cereals or cereal-based foods to state-dependent labourers or personnel. Inherently taxable and storable, cereal grains such as wheat, emmer, and barley, have long been considered the economic backbone and main source of wealth and power for early state institutions and their elites.
However, the paper titled “Revealing invisible stews: New results of organic residue analyses of Beveled Rim Bowls from the Late Chalcolithic site of Shakhi Kora, Kurdistan Region of Iraq” states: “Our analytical results challenge traditional interpretations that see BRBs as containers of cereal-based rations and bread moulds. The presence of meat- and potentially also dairy-based foods in the Shakhi Kora vessels lends support to multi-purpose explanations and points to local processes of appropriation of vessel meaning and function.”
Dr Elsa Perruchini, Institut National du Patrimoine, Paris, and University of Glasgow, who carried out the chemical analysis, said: “The combined approach of chemical and isotopic analysis using GC-MS and GC-C-IRMS was employed to identify the source(s) of lipids extracted from ceramic sherds, with the aim of providing new insights into the function of BRBs.”
Professor Claudia Glatz, a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and director of the Shakhi Kora excavations, said: “Our results present a significant advance in the study of early urbanism and the emergence of state intuitions.
“They demonstrate that there is significant local variation in the ways in which BRBs were used across Mesopotamia and what foods were served in them, challenging overly state-centric models of early social complexity.
“Our results point towards a great deal of local agency in the adoption and re-interpretation of the function and social symbolism of objects, that are elsewhere unambiguously associated with state institutions and specific practices.
As a result, they open up exciting new avenues of research on the role of food and foodways in the development, negotiation, and possible rejection of the early state at the regional and local level.”
Professor Jaime Toney, Professor of Environmental and Climate Science at the University’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “We have been collaborating closely with Claudia and her team for several years to minimise contamination during the collection of vessels from archaeological sites and it is fascinating to see this pay off with the analysis of fossil residues and the stable isotope analysis clearly indicate that they once held animal fats.”