Taylor Prism

For the optical Taylor prism, see Glan–Taylor prism.
Sennacherib's Annals
Final editions of Sennacherib's Annals - the Taylor Prism (above) and Jerusalem Prism (below)
Material Clay
Size Varies
Writing Akkadian cuneiform
Created c.690 BCE
Discovered From 1830
Present location Final editions in the British Museum, Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Israel Museum

Sennacherib's Annals are the annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. They are found inscribed on a number of artifacts, and the final versions were found in three clay prisms inscribed with the same text: the Taylor Prism is in the British Museum, the Oriental Institute Prism in the Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Prism is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Taylor Prism is one of the earliest cuneiform artefacts analysed in modern Assyriology, having been found a few years prior to the modern deciphering of cuneiform.

The annals themselves are notable for describing his siege of Jerusalem during the reign of king Hezekiah. This event is recorded in several books contained in the Bible including Isaiah chapters 33 and 36; 2 Kings 18:17; 2 Chronicles 32:9. This event is also recorded by Herodotus.

Description and Discovery

The prisms contain six paragraphs of cuneiform written Akkadian. They are hexagonal in shape, made of red baked clay, and stand 38.0 cm high by 14.0 cm wide, and were created during the reign of Sennacherib in 689 BC (Chicago) or 691 BC (London, Jerusalem).

The Taylor prism is thought to have been found by Colonel Robert Taylor (1790-1852) in 1830 Nineveh, which was the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib, prior to its initial excavation by Botta and Layard more than a decade later. Although the prism remained in Iraq until 1846, in 1835 a paper squeeze was made by the 25-year-old Henry Rawlinson, and a plaster cast was taken by Pierre-Victorien Lottin in c.1845.[1] The original was later thought to have been lost, until it was purchased from Colonel Taylor's widow in 1855 by the British Museum.[2] (Colonel Taylor may have been the father of John George Taylor, who, himself, became a noted Assyrian explorer and archaeologist.)[3]

Another version of this text is found on what is known as the Sennacherib Prism, now in the Oriental Institute. It was purchased by James Henry Breasted from a Baghdad antiques dealer in 1919 for the Oriental Institute.[4] The Jerusalem prism was acquired by the Israel Museum at a Sotheby’s auction in 1970.[5] It was only published in 1990.[6]

The three known complete examples of this inscription are nearly identical, with only minor variants, although the dates on the prisms show that they were written sixteen months apart (the Taylor and Jerusalem Prisms in 691 BC and the Oriental Institute prism in 689 BC). There are also at least eight other fragmentary prisms preserving parts of this text, all in the British Museum, and most of them containing just a few lines.

The Chicago text was translated by Daniel David Luckenbill and the Akkadian text, along with a translation into English, is available in his book The Annals of Sennacherib (University of Chicago Press, 1924).[7]


It is one of three accounts discovered so far which have been left by Sennacherib of his campaign against the Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah, giving a different perspective on these events from that of the Book of Kings in the Bible.

Some passages in the Old Testament agree with at least a few of the claims made on the prism. The Bible recounts a successful Assyrian attack on Samaria, as a result of which the population was deported, and later recounts that an attack on Lachish was ended by Hezekiah suing for peace, with Sennacherib demanding 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, and Hezekiah giving him all the silver from his palace and from the Temple in Jerusalem, and the gold from doors and doorposts of the temple.[8] Compared to this, the Taylor Prism proclaims that 46 walled cities and innumerable smaller settlements were conquered by the Assyrians, with 200,150 people, and livestock, being deported, and the conquered territory being dispersed among the three kings of the Philistines instead of being given back. Additionally, the Prism says that Sennacherib’s siege resulted in Hezekiah being shut up in Jerusalem "like a caged bird", Hezekiah's mercenaries and 'Arabs' deserting him, and Hezekiah eventually buying off Sennacherib, having to give him antimony, jewels, ivory-inlaid furniture, his own daughters, harem, and musicians. It states that Hezekiah became a tributary ruler.

See also

Ancient Near East portal


External links

  • Sennacherib's Hexagonal Prism
  • Sennacherib Prism - Luckenbill’s translation as adapted by K.C. Hanson
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