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The site of Nineveh lies on the east bank of the River Tigris. The ancient tell, now known as Tell Kuyunjik, was occupied from the seventh millennium BC. A deep excavation at the site, carried out by Max Mallowan, established a chronology against which many of the other sites in north Mesopotamia are compared.
In the later second millennium BC, Nineveh was an important city with a prestigious temple of the goddess Ishtar. Sennacherib chose it as his capital and laid out a city surrounded by walls approximately twelve kilometres (seven and a half miles) in circumference. The old tell formed the main citadel and was where, at the beginning of the seventh century BC, Sennacherib built the so-called Southwest Palace, decorating it with carved stone reliefs. As at Nimrud and Khorsabad, there was also an arsenal. This was situated on the river wall south of the citadel mound at Tell Nebi Yunus (so-called because later legend claimed this was the tomb of the prophet Jonah). Ashurbanipal built a second palace on Tell Kuyunjik, the North Palace, which contained the famous lion hunt reliefs. In the summer of 612 BC, Nineveh fell to the combined forces of the Medes and Babylonians. Occupation continued, however, for a further 1000 years before Nineveh was eclipsed by the city of Mosul, on the other side of the river.