Explore highlights
Alabaster jar


Height: 17.600 cm
Diameter: 9.400 cm

Excavated by A.H. Layard

ME 91639

Room 55: Mesopotamia

    Alabaster jar

    Neo-Assyrian, 8th century BC
    From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq

    Found on the site of the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II

    The archaeologist Henry Layard discovered this jar, with a leaf pattern around its shoulder, during his excavations at Nimrud in the nineteenth century. Although it comes from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC), it dates to a later period. A cuneiform inscription on it reads: 'Palace of Sargon King of Assyria'. The inscription is accompanied by an engraving of a lion. A lion is often depicted with inscriptions of Sargon II (722-705 BC), and is probably an official mark of his palace or treasury.

    In his best-selling account of the Nimrud excavations published in 1849, Layard describes his find of thousands of broken fragments of alabaster vessels beneath fallen relief slabs. After one of the workmen discovered a complete vase which was then accidentally broken with a pick-axe, Layard apparently took the pick-axe himself and, working carefully, found this complete vase, and the glass vase of Sargon.

    A.H. Layard, Nineveh and its remains, 2 volumes (London, J. Murray, 1849)

    J.E. Curtis and J.E. Reade (eds), Art and empire: treasures from (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)