I was sitting in front of my computer in my office yesterday afternoon when Sam our Senior Conservator came in and asked for my advice about cleaning the Assyrian cuneiform inscription that is going in the Ancient Worlds displays. The Museum acquired the inscription during the 1920s. It shows a winged Assyrian deity. The cuneiform inscription is formulaic and honours King Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) .
This reminded me that back in 2006 a smaller cuneiform inscription was cleaned as part of an event to celebrate the Festival of British Archaeology at the Museum.
Thanks to Professor Alan Millard of the University of Liverpool we can offer a translation of the inscription:-
“[Palace] of Ashurnasirpal, great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta (II), great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Adadnarari (II) (who was) also great king, strong king, king of the universe, and king of Assyria; valiant man who acts with the support of Assur, his lord, and has no rival (5) among the princes of the four quarters, the king who subdued (the territory stretching) from the opposite bank of the Tigris to Mount Lebanon and the Great Sea, the entire land Laqu, (and) the land Suhu including the city Rapiqu. He conquered (11) from the source of the River Subnat to the interior of the land Nirbu. I brought within the boundaries of my land (the territory stretching) from the passes of Mount Kirruru to the land Gilzanu, from the opposite bank of (15) the Lower Zab to the city Til-Bari which is upstream from the land Zaban, from the city Til-sa-Abtani… Good heavens somebody’s actually reading this! To the city Til-sa-Zabdani, (and) the cities Hirimu (and) Harutu (which are) fortresses of Kardunias. (20) Finally, I have gained dominion over the entire extensive lands Nairi…
This translation is taken from A.Kirk Grayson Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC I (1114-859 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Assyrian Periods Vol.2, University of Toronto Press (p.300). The Manchester inscription is one a series of very similar inscriptions set up in the palace by Ashurnasirpal. Numbers in brackets refer to the line of the inscription. Our inscription stops at word a-pel on line 20.
Archaeology is the study of the past through looking at material remains. Blogging goes one better by enabling us to get even more mileage out of jokes from the past.
Our special thanks to Professor Millard and to Dr John Healey for helping us with the inscription.