Height: 7.400 inches
Width: 4.900 inches
Presented by Sir Robert Ker Porter
Enlightenment: Ancient scripts
Babylon (Kasr), about 8th-7th century BC
This was one of a number of items collected by Sir Robert Ker Porter (1777-1842), a Scottish artist, traveller and diplomat. Ker Porter was appointed historical painter to the Russian Tsar in 1804 and recorded and drew ruins at Persepolis and other sites in Iran for the Russian Academy of Fine Arts (1817-20).
While travelling in the Near East, Porter stayed with Claudius Rich (1786-1821) in Baghdad, and was guided around the newly identified site of Babylon. Ker Porter presented a small collection of items he collected during his travels to the British Museum in 1821. These were mostly remains of ancient Babylonian buildings: bricks, mortar, bitumen and reeds.
This brick was originally at least 30 cm across, but Ker Porter cut it down to make it portable. The faint impression shows a lion with an Aramaic inscription. Aramaic gradually replaced cuneiform script in Mesopotamia after the ninth century BC but Aramaic brick inscriptions are not common, and Ker Porter recognised that this brick was 'a very rare specimen'. The inscription gives the letter M, possibly a personal monogram, above the short word 'QŠB', which possibly translates as 'B has presented'. 'B' may be an abbreviation of a god's name.
Sir R. Ker Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, -1, 2 vols. (London, 1821-22)
R.D. Barnett, 'Sir Robert Ker Porter - Regency artist and traveller', Iran-2 (1972), pp. 19-24, plates 1-12
N. E. Vasilieva, 'About the history of Sir Robert Ker Porter's album with his sketches of Achaemenid and Sassanian monuments', Archaeologische Mitteilungen a (1994), pp. 339-48, plates 104-11