Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

who, from their acquaintance with the mysteries of gun carriages, were looked up to as authorities on such matters, daily declaimed on the properties and use of this vehicle, and of carts in general, to a large circle of curious and attentive listeners. As long as the cart was in Mosul, it was examined by every stranger who visited the town. But when the news spread that it was about to leave the gates, and to be drawn over the bridge, the business of the place was completely suspended. The secretaries and scribes from the palace left their divans; the guards their posts; the bazaars were deserted; and half the population assembled on the banks of the river to witness the manoeuvres of the cart, which was forced over the rotten bridge of boats by a pair of buffaloes, and a crowd of Chaldaeans and shouting Arabs.” To lessen the weight of the lion and bull, without in any way interfering with the sculpture, I reduced the thickness and considerably diminished the bulk of the slabs, by cutting away as much as possible from the back, which, being placed against the wall of sun-dried bricks, was never meant to be seen. As, in order to move these figures at all, I had to choose between this plan and that of sawing them into several pieces, I did not hesitate to adopt it. To enable me to move the bull from the ruins, and to place it on the cart in the plain below, a trench or road nearly two hundred feet long, about fifteen feet wide, and, in some places, twenty feet deep, was cut from the entrance, in which stood the bull, to the edge of the mound. As I had not sufficient mechanical power at command to raise the sculpture out of the trenches, like the smaller bas-reliefs, this road was necessary. It was a tedious undertaking, as a very large accumulation of

* The bridge of Mosul consists of a number of rude boats bound together by iron chains. Planks are laid from boat to boat, and the whole is covered with earth. During the spring floods this frail bridge would be unable to resist the force of the stream ; the chains holding it on one side of the river are then loosened, and it swings round. All communication between the two banks of the river is thus cut off, and a ferry is established until the waters subside, and the bridge can be replaced.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]

Assyrian Warriors hunting a Lion, (N. W Palace, Nimroud.)

earth had to be removed. About fifty Arabs and Nestorians were employed in the work.

On digging this trench it was found that a chamber had once existed to the west of the great hall. The sculptured slabs had been destroyed or carried away; but part of the walls of unbaked bricks could still be traced. The only bas-relief discovered was lying flat on the pavement, where it had evidently been left when the adjoining slabs were removed. It was the small relief of the lion-hunt now in the British Museum, and remarkable for its finish, the elegance of the ornaments, and the spirit of the design. It resembles, in the general treatment, the battle-scene first discovered in the S.W. palace, and I am inclined to believe that they both belonged to this ruined chamber; in which, perhaps, the sculptures were more elaborate and more highly finished than in any other part of the building. The work of different artists may be plainly traced in the Assyrian edifices. Frequently when the outline is spirited and correct, and the ornaments designed with considerable taste, the execution is defective or coarse; evidently showing, that whilst the subject was drawn by a master, the carving of the stone had been intrusted to an inferior workman. In many bas-reliefs some parts are more highly finished than others, as if they had been retouched by an experienced sculptor. The figures of the enemy are generally rudely executed and left unfinished, to show probably that, being those of the conquered or captive race, they were unworthy the care of the artist. It is rare to find an entire bas-relief equally well.executed in all its parts. The most perfect hitherto discovered in Assyria, are probably, the lionhunt from the principal chamber, the lion-hunt just described, and the large group of the king sitting on his throne, in the midst of his attendants and winged figures, all now placed in the British Museum.

Whilst making this trench, I also discovered, about three feet beneath the pavement, a drain, which appeared to communicate with others previously opened in different parts of the

building. It was probably the main sewer, through which all the minor water-courses were discharged. It was built of baked bricks, and covered in with large slabs and tiles. As the bull was to be lowered on its back, the unsculptured side of the slab having to be placed on rollers, I removed the walls behind it to form a clear space large enough to receive the sculpture when prostrate, and to leave room for the workmen to pass on all sides of it. The principal difficulty was of course to lower the mass: when once on the ground, or on rollers, it could be dragged forwards by the united force of a number of men; but, during its descent, it could only be sustained by ropes. If these ropes, not strong enough to bear the weight, chanced to give way, the sculpture would be precipitated to the ground, and would, probably, be broken in the fall. The few ropes I possessed had been sent to me, across the desert, from Aleppo; but they were small and weak. From Baghdad I had obtained a thick hawser, made of the fibres of the palm. In addition I had been furnished with two pairs of blocks, and a pair of jack-screws belonging to the steamers of the Euphrates expedition. These were all the means at my command for moving the bull and lion. The sculptures were wrapped in mats and felts, to preserve them, as far as possible, from injury in case of a fall, and to prevent the ropes chipping or rubbing the alabaster. The bull was ready to be moved by the 18th of March. The earth had been taken from under it, and it was now only supported by beams resting against the opposite wall. With the wood obtained from the mountains were several thick rollers. These were placed upon sleepers or half beams, formed out of the trunks of poplar trees, well greased and laid on the ground parallel to the sculpture. The bull was to be lowered upon these rollers. A deep trench had been cut behind the second bull, completely across the wall, and, consequently, extending from chamber to chamber. A bundle of ropes coiled round this isolated mass of earth served to hold two blocks, two others being attached to ropes wound round the bull to be

moved. The ropes, by which the sculpture was to be lowered, were passed through these blocks; the ends, or falls of the tackle, as they are technically called, being led from the blocks above the second bull, and held by the Arabs. The cable which was first passed through the trench, and then round the sculpture, was held by two bodies of men. Several of the strongest Chaldaeans placed thick beams against the back of the bull, and were directed to withdraw them gradually, supporting the weight of the slab, and checking it in its descent. My own people were reinforced by a large number of the Abou-Salman. I had invited Sheikh Abd-ur-rahman to be present, and he came attended by a body of horsemen. The inhabitants of Naifa and Nimroud, having volunteered to assist on the occasion, were placed amongst my Arabs. The workmen, except the Chaldaeans who supported the beams, were divided into four parties, two of which were stationed in front of the bull, and held the ropes passed through the blocks, whilst the rest clung to the ends of the cable, and were directed to slack off gradually as the sculpture descended. The men being ready, and all my preparations complete, I stationed myself on the top of the high bank of earth over the second bull, and ordered the wedges to be struck out from under the sculpture to be moved. Still, however, it remained firmly in its place. A rope having been passed round it, six or seven men easily tilted it over. The thick, ill-made cable stretched with the strain, and almost buried itself in the earth round which it was coiled. The ropes held well. The mass descended gradually, the Chaldaeans propping it up with the beams. It was a moment of great anxiety. The drums and shrill pipes of the Kurdish musicians increased the din and confusion caused by the war-cry of the Arabs, who were half frantic with excitement. They had thrown off nearly all their garments; their long hair floated in the wind; and they indulged in the wildest postures and gesticulations as they clung to the ropes. The women had congregated on the sides of

the trenches, and by their incessant screams, and by the ear

« ElőzőTovább »