Collection online

The White Obelisk

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    118807

  • Title (object)

    • The White Obelisk
  • Description

    Limestone obelisk; rectangular, slightly tapering with a stepped apex; decorated with eight registers carved in low relief, representing scenes of warfare, hunts, processions of tributaries and ceremonial occasions associated with an Assyrian king best identified as Ashurnasirpal I; cuneiform inscription on two sides (A and D); ancient saw marks near the base and the condition of the stone implies that the lowermost 35 cm was formerly inserted into a socket; surfaces now considerably weathered and damaged.

    More 

  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1049BC-1031BC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 285 centimetres
    • Width: 70.48 centimetres
    • Depth: 42.54 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Script

        cuneiform
      • Inscription Position

        top of two adjoining sides
      • Inscription Language

        Akkadian
      • Inscription Translation

        Side A
        ll. 1-4: [In the first year of my reign, when] I sat in glory [on the throne], I moved my chariotry and numerous troops; I conquered inaccessible forts all round. I received contributions in horses from the land of Gilzanu; ..., I es[tablished] as regular dues.
        ll. 4-6: [Because] they did not (continue to) s[en]d the horses hither, I be[came angry and] marched against the city of Harira (and) the city of Halhalaush, (cities) of [cri]minal [lo]rds.
        ll. 7-8: These (!) I conquered in the eponymy of Ashurnasirpal: I took out their goods, their captives, their possessions, their herds, (and) carried them to Ashur, my city;
        ll. 9-11: their great ... city, together with its population, I presented to Ashur, my god, my master

        Side D
        ll. 12-18: [...] of [...] I reached. The lords [...] whom [I had pursued] into the land of Shupria, trusted [great]ly in [their] massed troops and [...] ... [...] ... [...] they occupied.
        ll. 18-23: At the command of Ashur, [the Great Mountain,] the great lord, my master, I moved the chariotry [(and) ...] of my army: I conquered the city. [The enemy] abandoned the city, [...] the horses, oxen, [...] ...; he made (his) chariotry take up positions.
        ll. 23-25: [I reacted] fiercely: I raised a torch, crossed [quickly] on foot into the Kashiari range (and) marched against those cities.
        ll. 26-29: [...] During the night I invested their cities [and ...] by sunrise I fought against numerous chariots and troops (and) made them suffer heavy losses.
        ll. 30-33: I conquered the city of Amlattu, the city of Shaburam, the city of Ruzidak, the city of Bugu, the city of Ustu, rebel cities of the land of Dannuna, set them on fire, (took out) their captives, their possessions, their riches ...

        SIDE A (caption)
        ll. 1-2: The 'Bit-nathi' of the city of Nineveh: I performed the wine (libation) and sacrifice of the temple of the august goddess.
      • Inscription Comment

        Inscription on two sides of the monument with a caption (epigraph). This gives a tentative translation by Sollberger, followed by Reade (1975) with restored passages within square brackets
  • Curator's comments

    This object was first ascribed to the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II in the 'Guide to the Kouyunjuk Gallery' written by T. G. Pinches and published by the BM in 1883. This view was followed until 1928 when E. Unger presented the argument that it dated to the reign of Ashurnasirpal I. Some Assyriologists have continued to follow the former whereas most archaeologists and art historians have followed Unger and prefered an earlier date. The literature, iconography and context have been thoroughly reviewed by Reade (1975) who concludes that the monument indeed belongs to the reign of Ashurnasirpal I.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Unger 1932a bibliographic details
    • Reade 1975a bibliographic details
    • Sollberger 1974a bibliographic details
    • Gadd 1936b p.124 bibliographic details
    • Rassam H 1897a p.8, opp. p.10 (general view) bibliographic details
    • Reade 1972a p.88 bibliographic details
    • Grayson, RIMA 2 RIM.A.0.101.18 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G6a

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2002- BM, G6/Assyrian Transept
    Assyrian Transept West

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1853

  • Acquisition notes

    It was discovered at Kuyunjik by Rassam in July 1853 "about two hundred feet to the northeast of Sennacherib's palace" at a depth of some fifteen feet below the surface of the mound; it was found lying on its side and the findspot corresponds to an open area between the outer court of Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh and the Ishtar temple. This findspot is recorded on W. Boutcher's plan reproduced by Rassam in the 'Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology' VIII (1882), opp. p.37 with contemporary drawings by C. Hodder as Or.Dr.VI,xl (general view), xli (faces C-D), xlii (faces A-B). It was shipped from Basra to Bombay on the Acbar in March 1854 and from Bombay to London on the Merchantman, arriving London February 1855.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number

    118807

  • Registration number

    1856,0909.58

  • Additional IDs

    • 62 (ex)
Limestone obelisk; four sided; shows campaigns and other activities in relief, including a hunt, of an Assyrian king who is not yet certainly identified, possibly Ashurnasirpal I or Ashurnasirpal II; relatively simple band of narrative art from which Nimrud compositions of Ashurnasirpal II were derived; inscription.

3/4: Left

Limestone obelisk; four sided; shows campaigns and other activities in relief, including a hunt, of an Assyrian king who is not yet certainly identified, possibly Ashurnasirpal I or Ashurnasirpal II; relatively simple band of narrative art from which Nimrud compositions of Ashurnasirpal II were derived; inscription.

Image description

Recommend


Feedback

If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: WCO26638

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 

Supporters

Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help  

Loading...