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See S. Glubok, ed. Digging in Assyria (1970).
(now the mounds of Kuyunjik and Nebi Yunus), an ancient city of Assyria, on the left bank of the Tigris River in what is now Iraq. Nineveh came into existence as a settlement in the middle of the fifth millennium B.C. and later expanded into a city. In the 15th and 14th centuries B.C., it was dependent upon the state of Mitanni. It was the capital of Assyria at the end of the eighth and in the seventh century B.C., under the rulers Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal. At that time, Nineveh stretched for 4 km along the Tigris, and its main street—the processional road—was 26 m wide. The city was laid out according to a strict plan, which, by special order, builders were forbidden to violate. During the reign of Ashurbanipal, the famous royal Kuyunjik library-repository, housing more than 30,000 cuneiform tablets, was built in Nineveh. In 612 B.C., Nineveh was destroyed by the combined forces of the Babylonians and the Medes.
Excavations from the 1840’s to the 1930’s uncovered a number of cultural layers, the first of which dates from the fifth millennium B.C. Among the items found were polychrome pottery from the end of the fifth and from the fourth millennium B.C.; a sculpted bronze head, presumably a portrait of Sargon the Ancient of Akkad, from the second half of the third millennium B.C. (now in the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad); and inscriptions. In the excavated palaces of the Assyrian rulers Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal (eighth and seventh centuries B.C.), numerous bas-reliefs were found, as well as statues of winged bulls and lions, keepers of the gate. The depictions on the bas-reliefs, now housed in the British Museum in London, are distinguished by their dynamic movement and lifelikeness. The bas-reliefs from Sennacherib’s palace primarily depict military and building scenes, while those from Ashurbanipal’s palace are primarily of hunting scenes.
REFERENCESFlittner, N. D. Kul’tura i iskusstvo Dvurech’ia i sosednikh stran. Leningrad-Moscow, 1958.
Paterson, A. Assyrian Sculptures: Palace of Sinacherib [parts 1–2]. The Hague [1912–13].
Meissner, B., and D. Opitz. Studien zum Bit Hilâni im Nordpalast Assurbanaplis zu Nineve. Berlin, 1940.