Austen Henry Layard (1817-94), archaeologist

Born in 1817 in Paris, Layard spent his early years in Switzerland and Italy. At the age of sixteen he became a trainee in a solicitor's office. In 1839, after qualifying as an attorney, Layard set out overland to work in Ceylon. Travelling throughout the Middle East he became fascinated by a large tell (mound) near the town of Mosul. In 1845, the British ambassador at Constantinople, Sir Stratford Canning agreed to pay the costs of a tentative excavation of the tell, known locally as Nimrud. On 9 November 1845 Layard began excavation with the aid of local tribesmen. Within hours they began to uncover walls panelled with stone slabs. Layard continued excavating during 1846 and Canning arranged for The British Museum to take over financial responsibility for the dig.

During 1847 Layard investigated the mound at Nineveh and discovered more remains. He returned to Mesopotamia in October 1849 for further work at both Nimrud and Nineveh. The same year he published an account of his discoveries which became a best-seller. Layard finished his last excavation in April 1851. He retired from archaeology in favour of politics and diplomacy and died in 1894.

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