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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Fired clay brick; Sennacherib D; cuneiform inscription on face in two lines; contains heavy organic temper; fired to brown colour.

  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 705BC-681BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 35.5 centimetres
    • Width: 32 centimetres
    • Thickness: 8 centimetres
    • Height: 40 centimetres (on stone base)
    • Width: 40 centimetres (on stone base)
    • Thickness: 12.5 centimetres (on stone base)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        (1) É.GAL {1d}sin-ŠEŠ.MEŠ-eri₄-ba
        (2) šárru GAL-u šárru dan-nu šar₄ {kur}aš-šur{ki}
      • Inscription Translation

        Sennacherib, the powerful [king], king of Assyria
      • Inscription Comment

        Sennacherib D. 2 ll. recording name and titles of Sennacherib.
  • Curator's comments

    Draft entry for Palace Museum catalogue, 2006:

    Royal inscriptions on bricks from ancient Iraq

    The earliest ancient inscriptions to be recorded by foreign travellers to the Middle East were fired clay bricks with a cuneiform inscription impressed or stamped on one edge or surface. The earliest such bricks come from southern Iraq, date to about 2500 BC and were inscribed in the Sumerian language. These were replaced after 2000 BC by Babylonian dialect of the Akkadian language, whereas those made in the cities of Assyria, in northern Iraq, were in Assyrian dialect, and equivalent bricks made in Iran were inscribed in Elamite. Bricks with cuneiform inscriptions were collected by most foreign travellers to these regions, although most were fragmentary as complete bricks were systematically re-used by local builders. The first examples to enter the British Museum were collected by Claudius James Rich, who was a brilliant young diplomat and amateur antiquarian resident in Baghdad in the early 19th century. During this time Rich was the first person to prove the physical whereabouts of the sites of the famous ancient cities of Babylon and Nineveh. Although the inscriptions could not be read at the time of their first display, they caused a minor sensation in London as they were among the first pieces of proof to be displayed of the existence of these Biblical cities.

    Assyrian brick with name and titles of Sennacherib
    BM 90210
    Length 35.5, width 32.00, thickness 8.00 cm

    This brick is inscribed on one edge with the name and titles of the Late Assyrian king Sennacherib. It is identical to some of the earliest Assyrian bricks recorded from northern Iraq by Claudius James Rich in the early 19th century. The clay was deliberately mixed with organic matter, perhaps chopped chaff which was a common by-product of the summer harvest and the time of year when bricks were normally made. The two-line inscription was impressed while the clay was still damp, but unlike Babylonian brick inscriptions this was done by impressing each individual sign rather than impressing with a purpose-made stamp, and may imply that scribes were directly employed in the Assyrian royal brickyards. The inscription states: "Sennacherib, the powerful [king], king of Assyria". Sennacherib was a son of Sargon II, and after his father's sudden death on campaign he became king of Assyria in 705 BC. The circumstances of his father's death were considered deeply unlucky so the decade-long project to found a new capital at Khorsabad was abandoned and a new capital created on the banks of the Tigris at Nineveh. This was one of the greatest cities of antiquity: the massive fortifications extend almost twelve kilometres and enclosed the citadel mound of Kuyunjik, an arsenal with additional palaces at Tell Nebi Yunus, the lower city, industrial suburbs, parks and gardens. Archaeological excavations have revealed much of the original Assyrian palace decor, including Sennacherib's palace for which the official title was "Palace without rival". Although this city was later brutally sacked by a coalition of Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC, the site was later re-occupied from the 3rd century BC until the medieval period: as it was first occupied about 6,000 BC, Nineveh provides one of the longest sequences in the world of human occupation at a single place.C, T & Tr – Thompson, Archaeologia 79 pl. 46 and p. 125 nos. 76 and 100; Pr – Nineveh.


  • Bibliography

    • Walker 1981a 175 bibliographic details
    • Guide 1922 p.73 bibliographic details
    • Frayne, RIME 4 RIM.E. bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2007 9 Mar-10 Jun, Beijing, The Palace Museum, 'Britain Meets the World: 1714-1830'

  • Condition

    Fair; mounted on stone block; light cleaning required before exhibition.

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition notes

    This registration was given to all bricks in the British Museum's collection which had BM numbers but no identifiable registration, except for those lately registered in the 75-7-25 collection. Almost all of them will have been acquired in the 19th century, since the numbers in the series BM 90000-90825 seem to have been allocated in the late 1890s.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 278 (exhibition number (red))
    • 309 (exhibition number)
Baked clay brick; Sennacherib D; cuneiform inscription on face in two lines; contains heavy organic temper; fired to brown colour.

Baked clay brick; Sennacherib D; cuneiform inscription on face in two lines; contains heavy organic temper; fired to brown colour.

Image description



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