This article is about the ancient city. For the village in Iran, see Nimrud, Iran. For other uses, see Nimrod.
"Kalhu" redirects here. For the village in Lorestan, Iran, see Kolehu, Lorestan.
كال (Arabic)
British Museum
Shown within Iraq
Alternate name Kalhu
Location Noomanea, Nineveh Province, Iraq
Region Mesopotamia

36°5′57″N 43°19′39″E / 36.09917°N 43.32750°E / 36.09917; 43.32750Coordinates: 36°5′57″N 43°19′39″E / 36.09917°N 43.32750°E / 36.09917; 43.32750

Type Settlement
Area 3.6 km2 (1.4 sq mi)

Nimrud (1Chronicles 1:10). The city was known as Calah (Kalakh) in the Bible.

The city covered an area of 360 hectares (890 acres).[1] The ruins of the city are found within one kilometer of the modern day Assyrian village of Noomanea in Nineveh Province, Iraq. This is some 30 kilometres (19 mi) southeast of Mosul.


The Assyrian king Shalmaneser I (1274 BC – 1245 BC) built Kalhu (Calah/Nimrud) during the Middle Assyrian Empire. However, the ancient city of Ashur remained the capital of Assyria, as it had been since circa 2500 BC.

A number of historians, such as Julian Jaynes, believe that the Biblical figure Nimrod (of whom the far later Arab name for the city was derived from) was inspired by the deeds of the real king of Assyria Tukulti-Ninurta I (1244-1207 BC), the son of Shalmaneser I, and a powerful conqueror. Others believe the name derived from the Assyrian god Ninurta, who had a major cultic centre at Kalhu /Nimrud.[2]

The city gained fame when king Ashurnasirpal II of the Neo Assyrian Empire (883 BC - 859 BC) made it his capital at the expense of Ashur. He built a large palace and temples in the city that had fallen into a degree of disrepair during the dark ages of the mid 11th to mid 10th centuries BC.

A grand opening ceremony with festivities and an opulent banquet in 879 BC is described in an inscribed stele discovered during archeological excavations. The city of king Ashurnasirpal II housed perhaps as many as 100,000 inhabitants, and contained botanic gardens and a Zoo. His son, Shalmaneser III (858–824 BC), built the monument known as the Great Ziggurat, and an associated temple.

Kalhu remained the capital of the Assyrian Empire during the reigns of; Shamshi-Adad V (822-811 BC), Adad-nirari III (810- 782 BC), Queen Semiramis (810-806 BC), Adad-nirari III (806-782 BC), Shalmaneser IV (782 - 773 BC), Ashur-dan III (772-755 BC), Ashur-nirari V (754-746 BC), Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC) and Shalmaneser V (726-723 BC). Tiglath-Pileser III in particular, conducted major building works in the city, as well as introducing Eastern Aramaic as the lingua franca of the empire.

However in 706 BC Sargon II (722-705 BC) moved the capital of the empire to Dur Sharrukin, and after his death, Sennacherib (705-681 BC) moved it to Nineveh. It remained a major city and a royal residence until the city was largely destroyed during the fall of the Assyrian Empire at the hands of an alliance of former subject peoples, including; Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians (between 616 BC and 605 BC).

The Nineveh Province in which the ruins of Nimrud lie, is still the major center of Iraq's indigenous Assyrian population (now exclusively Eastern Aramaic speaking Christians) to this day.

The name Nimrud in connection with the site is apparently first used in the writings of Carsten Niebuhr, who was in Mosul in March 1760.

Ashurnasirpal II

King Ashurnasirpal II who reigned from 883 to 859 BC built a new capital at Nimrud. Thousands of men worked to build a 5-mile (8.0 km) long wall surrounding the city and a grand palace. There were many inscriptions carved into limestone including one that said "The palace of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood, mulberry, pistachio wood, and tamarisk, for my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure for all time, I founded therein. Beasts of the mountains and of the seas, of white limestone and alabaster I fashioned and set them up on its gates." The inscriptions also described plunder stored at the palace. "Silver, gold, lead, copper and iron, the spoil of my hand from the lands which I had brought under my sway, in great quantities I took and placed therein." The inscriptions also described great feasts he had to celebrate his conquests. However his victims were horrified by his conquests. The text also said "Many of the captives I have taken and burned in a fire. Many I took. alive from some I cut off their hands to the wrists, from others I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers. I burned their young men women and children to death." About a conquest in another vanquished city he wrote "I flayed the nobles as many as rebelled and spread their skins out on the piles." These shock tactics brought success in 877 BCE, when after a march to the Mediterranean he announced "I cleaned my weapons in the deep sea and performed sheep-offerings to the gods."[3]

Shalmaneser III

King Arshurnasirpal's son Shalmaneser II (858–823 BC)I continued where he left off. He spent 31 of his 35-year reign in war and conquest. After a battle near the Orontes River with a coalition of Aramean and Canaanite/Phoenician states he boasted:

I slew 14,000 of their warriors with the sword. Like [1]

At Nimrud he built a palace that far surpassed his father's. It was twice the size and it covered an area of about 12 acres (49,000 m2) and included more than 200 rooms.[5]

In 828 BC, his son rebelled against him and was joined by 27 other Assyrian cities including Nineveh and Ashur. This conflict lasted until 821 BC, 3 years after Shalmaneser's death, during the reign of Shamshi-Adad V (822-811 BC).[5]


The site was first described by the British traveler Claudius James Rich in 1820, shortly before his death. Excavations at Nimrud were first conducted by Austen Henry Layard, working from 1845 to 1847 and from 1849 until 1851 [7] [8] [9] Layard believed at the time that the site was part of Nineveh, and his excavation publications were thus labeled. At this point, the work was handed over to Hormuzd Rassam, himself an Assyrian, in 1853-54 and then W.K. Loftus in 1854-55. [10]

After George Smith briefly worked the site in 1873 and Rassam returned there from 1877 to 1879, Nimrud was left untouched for almost 60 years. [11] A British School of Archaeology in Iraq team led by Max Mallowan resumed digging at Nimrud in 1949. The work continued until 1963 with David Oates becoming director in 1958 followed by Julian Orchard in 1963. [12] [13] [14]

Subsequent work was by the Directorate of Antiquities of the Republic of Iraq (1956, 1959–60, 1969–78 and 1982–92), Janusz Meuzynski (1974–76), Paolo Fiorina (1987–89) with the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino who concentrated mainly on Fort Shalmaneser, and John Curtis (1989). [15] In 1974 to his untimely death in 1976 Janusz Meuszynski the director of the Polish Center for Mediterranean Archaeology project, with the permission of the Iraqi excavation team, had the whole site documented on film—in 35mm slide film and 120mm black-and-white print film. Every relief that remained in situ, as well as the fallen, broken pieces that were distributed in the rooms across the site were photographed. Meuszynski also arranged with the architect of his project, Richard P. Sobolewski, to survey the site and record it in plan and in elevation. [16]

Excavations revealed remarkable bas-reliefs, ivories, and sculptures. A statue of Ashurnasirpal II was found in an excellent state of preservation, as were colossal winged man-headed lions weighing 10 short tons (9.1 t) to 30 short tons (27 t)[17] each guarding the palace entrance. The large number of inscriptions dealing with king Ashurnasirpal II provide more details about him and his reign than are known for any other ruler of this epoch. Portions of the site have been also been identified as temples to Ninurta and Enlil, a building assigned to Nabu, the god of writing and the arts, and as extensive fortifications.

The palaces of Ashurnasirpal II, Shalmaneser III, and Tiglath-Pileser III have been located. The famous Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III was discovered by Layard in 1846. Layard was aided by Hormuzd Rassam. The monument stands six-and-a-half-feet tall and commemorates the king's victorious campaigns of 859–824 BC. It is shaped like a temple tower at the top, ending in three steps. On one panel, Israelites led by king Jehu of Israel pay tribute and bow in the dust before king Shalmaneser III, who is making a libation to his god. The cuneiform text on the obelisk reads "Jehu the son of Omri", and mentions gifts of gold, silver, lead, and spear shafts.

Treasure of Nimrud

The "Treasure of Nimrud" unearthed in these excavations is a collection of 613 pieces of gold jewelry and precious stones. It has survived the confusions and looting after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in a bank vault, where it had been put away for 12 years and was "rediscovered" on June 5, 2003.[18]

Colossal statues moved to London

In 1847 after discovering more than half a dozen winged pairs of colossal statues of lions and bulls also known as lamassu weighing up to 30 short tons (27 t) Henry Layard brought two of the colossi weighing 10 short tons (9.1 t) each including one lion and one bull to London. After 18 months and several near disasters he succeeded in bringing them to the British Museum. This involved loading them onto a wheeled cart. They were lowered with a complex system of pulleys and levers operated by dozens of men. The cart was towed by 300 men. He initially tried to hook the cart up to a team of buffalo and have them haul it. However the buffalo refused to move. Then they were loaded onto a barge which required 600 goatskins and sheepskins to keep it afloat. After arriving in London a ramp was built to haul them up the steps and into the museum on rollers.

Additional 30 short tons (27 t) colossi were transported to Paris from Khorsabad by Paul Emile Botta in 1853. In 1928 Edward Chiera also transported a 40-short-ton (36 t) Colossus from Khorsabad to Chicago.[17][19]

Threats to Nimrud

Nimrud's various monuments are currently threatened by exposure to the harsh elements of the Iraqi climate. Lack of proper protective roofing means that the ancient reliefs at the site are susceptible to erosion from wind-blown sand and strong seasonal rains.[20]

See also

Ancient Near East portal



  • Henry C. Rawlinson, On the Birs Nimrud, or the Great Temple of Borsippa, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 18, pp. 1–34, 1861
  • D. J. Wiseman, The Nabu Temple Texts from Nimrud, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 248–250, 1968
  • D. J. Wiseman, Fragments of Historical Texts from Nimrud, Iraq, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 118–124, 1964
  • Barbara Parker, Seals and Seal Impressions from the Nimrud Excavations, Iraq, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 26–40 1962
  • Barbara Parker, Nimrud Tablets, 1956: Economic and Legal Texts from the Nabu Temple, Iraq, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 125–138, 1957

External links

  • Nimrud/Calah
  • Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino excavation site
  • Archaeological site photographs at Oriental Institute
  • National Geographic
  • Wall Street Journal posted to a message board
  • THE SECRET OF NIMRUD Photographs by Noreen Feeney

Template:Nineveh Plains

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