Sir Austen Henry Layard (Biographical details)

Sir Austen Henry Layard (archaeologist; politician/statesman; British; Male; 1817 - 1894)

Also known as

Layard, Austen Henry


Orton Longueville, Peterborough (1852)


Celebrated archaeologist whose excavations greatly increased knowledge of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia; 'discoverer' of Nineveh and Nimrud in the late 1840s/early 1850s. Born Paris. Travelled to Egypt at the age of 22; acquired an interest in the fine arts in Italy; acquired some knowledge of Arabic and Persian languages, and then travelled overland to Ceylon. Following a suggestion made by the Royal Geographical Society he lived among the Bakhtiari tribes of western Iran in 1840-42, publishing his account in 'Early Adventures'. He first visited Mesopotamia in 1841. He excavated most extensively at Nineveh and Nimrud in Assyria. He conducted two lengthy seasons of excavations in Assyria, from November 1845-June 1847 and from October 1849-April 1851. He first visited Khorsabad in August 1846 and returned to excavate there in November 1849.

After his early archaeological career he turned to politics, becoming MP for Aylesbury; Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1861-1866; British Ambassador to Spain, 1869-1877; Ambassador in Turkey, 1877-1881. He retired to live in Venice, developed an important collection of paintings (bequeathed to the National Gallery) and became a patron of the glass industry at Murano. His portrait is held by the Department of the Middle East in The British Museum, and his extensive papers, now mostly in the British Library, were bequeathed to the British Museum by his widow, Enid, in 1912. His memorial plaque is in St Margaret's church, Westminster.

Author of: "A Description of the Province of Khuzistan", 'Journal of the Royal Geographical Society', 16 (1846), pp. 1-105; 'Nineveh and its Remains' (London: John Murray 1849); 'The Monuments of Nineveh' (London: John Murray 1853); 'A Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh' (London: John Murray 1853); 'Early adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia' (London: John Murray 1887, abridged 1894).


Gordon Waterfield, 'Layard of Nineveh' , London: John Murray, 1961; F.M. Fales & B.J. Hickey, ed. 'Austen Henry Layard tra l'Oriente e Venezia' (Actes du Congrès de 1983), Rome: "l'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1987; Wout Arentsen, "Frank Calvert, Henry Austen Layard and Heinrich Schliemann", 'Anatolian Studies' 51 (2001), 169-85; Geoffrey Turner, "Sennacherib's Palace at Nineveh: the primary sources for Layard's second campaign", 'Iraq' 65, 175-220.