Nimrud (ancient Kalhu, Iraq)

Nimrud is situated on the east side of the River Tigris. The site was occupied in prehistoric times, but these early remains are deeply buried and unexplored. It was in the Middle Assyrian period that the town known as Kalhu (Calah in the Old Testament) is first recorded as an administrative centre. It was chosen as a new Assyrian capital by Ashurnasirpal II and remained the capital of Assyria for more than 150 years. During this time new palaces and administrative buildings were erected.

The major buildings of Nimrud were on the citadel mound, a massive platform some twenty hectares in area at the south-western corner of the site. Ashurnasirpal's palace, the Northwest Palace, was constructed from mud brick, but some rooms were decorated with gypsum reliefs as well as wall paintings. Surviving fragments of carved ivory furniture decoration represent stored booty and tribute. On the south-eastern side of the city lay the royal arsenal, known today as Fort Shalmaneser.

Recent excavations by the Iraqis have discovered tombs of some of the queens of Assyria, but the major excavations were carried out by Henry Layard from 1845-51, Max Mallowan from 1949-57 and David Oates from 1958-62. Although abandoned as the capital towards the end of the eighth century BC, Nimrud continued to be a major centre until it fell to the invading Babylonians and Medes between 614-612 BC. Small scale settlement at the site continued until at least the third century BC.

Related galleries