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The lofty cone and broad mound of Nimroud broke like a distant mountain on the morning sky. But how changed was the scene since my former visit! The ruins were no longer clothed with verdure and many-colored flowers ; no signs of habitation, not even the black tent of the Arab, were seen upon the plain. The eye wandered over a parched and barren waste, across which occasionally swept the whirlwind, dragging with it a cloud of sand. About a mile from us was the small village of Nimroud, like Naifa, a heap of ruins.
Twenty minutes' walk brought us to the principal mound. The absence of all vegetation enabled me to examine the remains with which it was covered. Broken pottery and fragments of bricks, both inscribed with the cuneiform character, were strewed on all sides. The Arabs watched my motions as I wandered to and fro, and observed with surprise the objects I had collected. They joined, however, in the search, and brought me handfuls of rubbish, amongst which I found with joy the fragment of a bas-relief. The material on which it was carved had been exposed to fire, and resembled, in every respect, the burnt gypsum of Khorsabad. Convinced from this discovery that sculptured remains must still exist in some part of the mound, I sought for a place where excavations might be commenced with a prospect of success. Awad led me to a piece of alabaster which appeared above the soil. We could not remove it, and on digging downward, it proved to be the upper part of a large slab. I ordered all the men to work around it, and they shortly uncovered a second slab. Continuing in the same line, we came upon a third; and, in the course of the morning, discovered ten more, the whole forming a square, with a slab missing at one corner. It was evident that we had entered a chamber, and that the gap was its entrance. I now dug down the face of one of the stones, and an inscription in the cuneiform character was soon exposed to view. Similar inscriptions occupied the centre of all the slabs, which were in the best preservation; but plain, with the exception of the writing. Leaving half the workmen to remove the rubbish
from the chamber, I led the rest to the S. W. corner of the mound, where I had observed many fragments of calcined alabaster.
A trench, opened in the side of the mound, brought me almost immediately to a wall, bearing inscriptions in the same character as those already described. The slabs, which had been almost reduced to lime by exposure to intense heat, threatened to fall to pieces as soon as uncovered.
Night interrupted our labors. I returned to the village well satisfied with their result. It was now evident that the remains of buildings of considerable extent existed in the mound; and that although some had been injured by fire, others had escaped the conflagration. As inscriptions, and the fragment of a bas-relief had been found, it was natural to conclude that sculptures were still buried under the soil. I determined, therefore, to explore the N. W. corner, and to empty the chamber partly uncovered during the day.
On returning to the village, I removed from the crowded hovel in which we had passed the night. With the assistance of Awad, who was no less pleased than myself with our success, we patched up with mud the least ruined house in the village, and restored its falling roof. We contrived at least to exclude, in some measure, the cold night winds; and to obtain a little privacy for my companion and myself.
Next morning my workmen were increased by five Turco mans from Selamiyah, who had been attracted by the prospect of regular wages. I employed half of them in emptying the chamber, and the re6t in following the wall at the S. W. corner of the mound. Before evening, the work of the first party was completed, and I found myself in a room* panelled with slabs about eight feet high, and varying from six to four feet in breadth. Upon one of them, which had fallen backwards from its place, was rudely inscribed, in Arabic characters, the name of Ahmed Pasha, one of the former
* Chamber A, plan 2.
hereditary governors of Mosul. A native of Selamiyah remembered that some Christians were employed to dig into the mound about thirty years before, in search of stone for the repair of the tomb of Sultan Abd-Allah, a Mussulman Saint, buried on the left bank of the Tigris, a few miles below its j unction with the Zab. They uncovered this slab; but being unable to move it, they cut upon it the name of their employer, the Pasha. My informant further stated that, in another part of the mound, he b*ad forgotten the precise spot, they had found sculptured figures, which they broke in pieces to carry away the fragments.
The bottom of the chamber was paved with smaller slabs than those which lined the walls. They were covered with inscriptions on both sides, and had been placed upon a layer of bitumen, which, having been used in a liquid state, had retained a perfect impression in relief of the characters carved upon the stone. The inscriptions on the upright slabs were about twenty lines in length, and all were precisely similar.
In the rubbish near the bottom of the chamber, I found several objects in ivory, upon which were traces of gilding; amongst them were the figure of a king carrying in one hand the Egyptian crux ansata, or emblem of life, part of a crouching sphinx, and an elegant ornamental border of flowers. Awad, who had his own suspicions of the object of my search, which he could scarcely persuade himself was limited to mere stones, carefully collected all the scattered fragments of gold leaf he could find in the rubbish; and, calling me aside in a mysterious and confidential fashion, produced them wrapped up in a piece of dingy paper. "O Bey," said he, " Wallah! your books are right, and the Franks know that which is hid from the true believer. Here is the gold, sure enough, and please God, we shall find it all in a few days. Only don't say any thing about it to those Arabs, for they are asses and cannot hold their tongues. The matter will come to the ears of the Pasha." The Sheikh was much surprised, and equally disappointed, when I generously presented him with the treasures he had collected, and all such as he might hereafter discover. He left me, muttering "Yia Rubbi !"and other pious ejaculations, and lost in conjectures as to the meaning of these strange proceedings. .
At the foot of the slabs in the S. W. corner, we found a great accumulation of charcoal, proving that the building of which they had formed part had been destroyed by fire. I dug also in several directions in this part of the mound, and in many places came upon the calcined remains of walls.
On the third day, I opened a trench in the high conical mound, but found only fragments of inscribed bricks. I also dug at the back of the north side of the chamber first explored, in the expectation of coming upon other walls beyond, but unsuccessfully. As my chief aim was to ascertain the existence, as soon as possible, of sculptures, all my workmen were moved to the S. W. corner, where the many remains of walls already discovered evidently belonging to the same edifice, promised speedier success. I continued the excavations in this part of the mound until the 13th, still finding inscriptions, but no sculptures.
Some days having elapsed since my departure from Mosul, and the experiment having been so far successful, it was time to return to the town and acquaint the Pasha, who had, no doubt, already heard of my proceedings, with the object of my researches. I started, therefore, early in the morning of the 14th, and galloped to Mosul in about three hours.
I found the town in great commotion. In the first place, his Excellency had, on the previous day, entrapped his subjects by the reports of his death, in the manner already described, and was now actively engaged in seeking pecuniary compensation for the Insult -he had received in the rejoicings of the population. In the second, the British Vice-Consul having purchased an old building to store his stock in trade, the Cadi, a fanatic and a man of infamous character, had given out that the Franks had formed a design of buying up the whole of Turkey, and was endeavoring to raise a riot, which was to end in the demolition of the Consulate and other acts of violence. I called on the Pasha, and, in the first place, congratulated him on his speedy recovery; a compliment which he received with a grim smile of satisfaction. He then introduced the subject of the Cadi, and the disturbance he had created. "Does that illconditioned fellow," exclaimed he, "think that he has Sheriff Pasha (his Excellency's immediate predecessor) to deal with, that he must be planning a riot in the town? When I was at Siwas the Ulema tried to excite the people because I encroached upon a burying-ground. But I made them eat dirt! Wallah! I took every gravestone and built up the castle walls with them." He pretended at first to be ignorant of the excavations at Nimroud; but subsequently thinking that he would convict me of prevarication in my answers to his questions as to the amount of treasure discovered, pulled out of his writing tray a scrap of paper, as dingy as that produced by Awad, in which was also preserved an almost invisible particle of gold leaf. This, he said, had been brought to him by the commander of the irregular troops stationed at Selamiyah, who had been watching my proceedings. I suggested that he should name an agent to be present as long as I worked at Niniroud, to take charge of all the precious metals that might be discovered. He promised to write on the subject to the chief of the irregulars; but offered no objection to the continuation of my researches.
Reports of the wealth extracted from the ruins had already reached Mosul, and had excited the cupidity and jealousy of the Cadi and principal inhabitants of the place. It was evident that I should have to contend against a formidable opposition; but as the Pasha had not, as yet, openly objected to my proceedings, I hired some Nestorian Chaldaeans, who had left their mountains for the winter to seek employment in Mosul, and sent them to Nimroud. At the same time I engaged agents to explore several mounds in the neighborhood of the town, hoping to ascertain the existence of sculptured buildings in some part of the country, before steps were taken to interrupt me.