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The Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud and the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology’s Excavation (1974-1976): A Digital Publication
The Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology returned to re-excavate the site of the Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BCE) at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) near the city of Mosul in northeastern Iraq in 1974, because the Palace was the least known and least understood of the buildings on Nimrud's citadel. It was hoped that new excavations would elucidate this poorly preserved Palace with more up-to-date excavation techniques and new finds. The excavation was supposed to make the Central Palace a source for the study of the life and times of this important ancient Assyrian king. Many fragments of Assyrian bas-relief, not only those of Tiglath-pileser III, were discovered, some re-excavated in the trenches of the previous excavator, Austen Henry Layard. Then the field director, Janusz Meuszynski, died in 1976, and the final reports were never completed.
There are too few examples of Tiglath-pileser’s bas-reliefs in the total corpus of Assyrian bas-relief to allow the results of the Polish project to remain unpublished. The Polish finds are an extremely valuable resource. An additional and disturbing fact is that individual bas-relief sculptures (some with inscriptions) have been appearing on the antiquities market, looted from the site museum storerooms at Nimrud. Some of the bas-reliefs have been broken up into pieces to obscure their origin and in order to obtain more money from several rather than from the one original fragment. Many of the better examples of bas-relief from this excavation are now on the international art market as a result of illicit activities (theft) at Nimrud subsequent to the Gulf War of 1991 (there is increasing anxiety among scholars -- expressed in a 2003 interview -- that war in Iraq will lead to further destruction of key monuments, like those at Nimrud).
What we know of Tiglath-pileser’s Palace is that many of the themes of earlier and later sculpture are to be found on its wall decoration. And, there are new motifs and the syntax of the sculpture, the way scenes were portrayed, the placement of the vignettes of individual parts of scenes on the faces of the slabs, and details of the garment decorations have their own character and style.
Richard Sobolewski and (the late) Samuel Paley were to publish the results of the excavation in digital format with top plans, photographs, and comparative material from museums and Layard’s archives. Learning Sites will finish the publication. The digital format will allow the reader to access all the relevant data through appropriate links from interactive 3D computer models of the remains and in reconstructed panels of the wall decorations. Fragments of bas-relief and inscriptions from the periods of Ashur-nasir-pal II and Shalmaneser III discovered during the course of the excavation will also be incorporated into this publication, as well as the scant remains of the post-Assyrian buildings built on the Central Palace site. The corpus of photographs of the Polish Center's excavation will be available permanently on this Website. The final computer model and the publication will be prepared, marketed, and distributed by Learning Sites, Inc., in collaboration with scholars from around the world.
These Webpages will be where the computer visualizations of the remains, photographs, drawings, descriptions, and analyses will be collocated en route to their full publication. Material here will expand and change as the project progresses. From the Index above you may access the various pages of text and images.
The research and compilation of the manuscript for this final publication were made possible through a generous grant from The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications (http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~semitic/white_levy_program.html), and the generosity of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, the UB Foundation, and individual supporters.