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As usual, the orders were given to the very persons who were speculating upon the miseries of the poor and needy - to the cadi, the mufti, and the head people of the town. They proceeded to obey them with great zeal and punctuality, but somehow or another overlooked their own stores and those of their friends, and ransacked the houses of the rest of the inhabitants. In a few days, consequently, those who had saved up a little grain for their own immediate wants, were added to the number of the starving; and the necessities and misery of the town were increased.
The Bedouins, who are dependent upon the village for supplies, now also began to feel the effects of the failure of the crops, and were preparing to make up for their sufferings by plundering the caravans of merchants, and the peaceable inhabitants of the districts within reach of the desert. Although the spring had already commenced, the Shammar and other formidable tribes had not yet encamped in the vicinity of Mosul; still casual plundering parties had made their appearance among the villages, and it was predicted that as soon as their tents were pitched nearer the town, the country without the walls would be not only very unsafe, but almost uninhabitable.
These circumstances induced me to undertake the removal of the larger sculptures as early as possible. I determined to embark them for Busrah in the month of March or April, foreseeing that as soon as the Bedouins had moved northwards from Babylonia, and had commenced their plundering expeditions in the vicinity of Mosul, I should be compelled to leave Nimroud.
The Trustees of the British Museum had not contemplated the removal of either a winged bull or lion, and I had at first believed that, with the means at my disposal, it would have been useless to attempt it. I was directed to leave them, where discovered, until some favorable opportunity of moving them entire might occur; and to heap earth over them, after the excavations had been brought to an end. Being loth, however, to abandon all these fine specimens of Assyrian sculpture, I resolved upon attempting the removal and embarkation of two of the smallest and best preserved, and fixed upon a lion and a bull from the great central hall. Thirteen pairs of these gigantic sculptures, and several fragments of others, had been discovered; but many of them were too much injured to be worth sending to England. I had wished to secure the lions forming the great entrance to the principal chamber of the N.W. palace; the finest specimens of Assyrian sculpture discovered in the ruins. But after some deliberation I determined to leave them for the present; as, from their size, the expense attending their conveyance to the river would have been very considerable.
I formed various plans for lowering the lion and bull, dragging them to the river, and placing them upon rafts. Each step had its difficulties, and a variety of original suggestions were made by my workmen, and by the good people of Mosul, At last I resolved upon constructing a cart sufficiently strong to bear the sculptures. As no wood but poplar could be procured in the town, a carpenter was sent to the mountains with directions to fell the largest mulberry tree, or any tree of equally compact grain, he could find; and to bring back with him beams of it, and thick slices from the trunk. ·
By the month of March this wood was ready. I purchased from the dragoman of the French Consulate a pair of strong iron axles, formerly used by M. Botta in moving sculptures from Khorsabad. Each wheel was formed of three solid pieces, nearly a foot thick, bound together by iron hoops. Across the axles were laid three beams, and above them several crossbeams. A pole was fixed to one axle, to which were also attached iron rings for ropes, to enable men, as well as buffaloes, to draw the cart. The wheels were provided with moveable hooks for the same purpose.
Simple as this cart was, it became an object of wonder in the town. Crowds came to look at it, as it stood in the yard of the vice-consul's khan; and the Pasha's topjis, or artillery-men, 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 Chaldæans 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.
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