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The Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud and the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology’s Excavation (1974-1976)
The Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology returned to re-excavate the site of the Central Palace of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BCE) at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) near the city of Mosul in northeastern Iraq in 1974, because the Palace was the least known and least understood of the buildings on Nimrud's citadel. It was hoped that new excavations would elucidate this poorly preserved Palace with more up-to-date excavation techniques and new finds. The excavation was supposed to make the Central Palace a source for the study of the life and times of this important ancient Assyrian king. Many fragments of Assyrian bas-relief, not only those of Tiglath-pileser III, were discovered, some re-excavated in the trenches of the previous excavator, Austen Henry Layard. Then the field director, Janusz Meuszynski, died in 1976, and the final reports were never completed.
There are too few examples of Tiglath-pileser’s bas-reliefs in the total corpus of Assyrian bas-relief to allow the results of the Polish project to remain unpublished. The Polish finds are an extremely valuable resource. An additional and disturbing fact is that individual bas-relief sculptures (some with inscriptions) have been appearing on the antiquities market, looted from the site museum storerooms at Nimrud. Some of the bas-reliefs have been broken up into pieces to obscure their origin and in order to obtain more money from several rather than from the one original fragment. Many of the better examples of bas-relief from this excavation are now on the international art market as a result of illicit activities (theft) at Nimrud subsequent to the Gulf War of 1991 (there is increasing anxiety among scholars -- expressed in a 2003 interview -- that war in Iraq will lead to further destruction of key monuments, like those at Nimrud).
What we know of Tiglath-pileser’s Palace is that many of the themes of earlier and later sculpture are to be found on its wall decoration. And, there are new motifs and the syntax of the sculpture, the way scenes were portrayed, the placement of the vignettes of individual parts of scenes on the faces of the slabs, and details of the garment decorations have their own character and style.
Richard Sobolewski and (the late) Samuel Paley were to publish the results of the excavation in digital format with top plans, photographs, and comparative material from museums and Layard’s archives. Learning Sites will finish the publication. The digital format will allow the reader to access all the relevant data through appropriate links from interactive 3D computer models of the remains and in reconstructed panels of the wall decorations. Fragments of bas-relief and inscriptions from the periods of Ashur-nasir-pal II and Shalmaneser III discovered during the course of the excavation will also be incorporated into this publication, as well as the scant remains of the post-Assyrian buildings built on the Central Palace site. The corpus of photographs of the Polish Center's excavation will be available permanently on this Website. The final computer model and the publication will be prepared, marketed, and distributed by Learning Sites, Inc., in collaboration with scholars from around the world.
"Centering the World": Trees as Tribute in the Ancient Near East.
After many years of being a war historian, Thomas Pakenham, author of Remarkable Trees of the World, turned to the study of trees. "Trees I have met" is the focus and the affirmation of that which is rooted, that which sustains the earth, that which persists, the continuity of a tree's bearing witness to history. I personally recall most intimately, The Battle tree in Princeton, which had stood since the Revolutionary War, was such a revered tree in its roots and branches, were the pages of history, until 1999.
The Noble prize was awarded, this past year, to an African woman who has planted millions of trees all over Africa, to reclaim the land. Wangari Maathai said, "I think there is increasing recognition of how peace, democracy and the environment are all interlinked. We have to manage resources like water, forests, land and oil if not we will lose the fight against poverty and then there will be no peace."
In my investigation of the Near East, trees were the most coveted booty of war, and trees and gardens, are where man turned, once his empire was sufficient and could turn to peace activities.
The Sacred Tree
It would seen natural to a civilization which worships the cosmological sacred tree, that such a reverence for the tree developed out of ritualized worship of votive trees. Representing regeneration and immortality, The Sacred Tree was a symbol of the means to ascend to heaven. The moon tree, the sap of which was regarded as an elixir, rested on a mountain. Associated with the god, Ashur, and with the concept of kingship, the moon god was considered the highest god in ancient Mesopotamia.
Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargon, composed and sang hymns to the moon god, Innana.
Representation of a tree with sacred or astral meanings begins in the fourth millennium in Ancient Mesopotamia. Rosette trees were associated with Innanna, and grain stalks with her bridegroom, Dumuzi, in the annual sacred marriage, ensuring the fertility of the land. Pomegrantes, symbol of fertility first appear in the image of a hybrid tree, with curling volates, having peripheral leaves, in the second Millennium or Middle Assyrian Period.
"Centering the world" was the topos or leitmotif for the Near Eastern Garden. (FN Liverani) Exotic trees and plant specimens employed in landscaping for parks and architecture, influenced by foreign styles, epitomizes this appropriation. The garden, as microcosm, incorporates whatever it could, from geographical peripheries.
The Tree as Tribute
The multivalent meanings of the tree in the ancient garden acts simultaneously as a symbol of empire and expansion. Trees are represented, not only as features in the landscape, but as commodities to be claimed, traded, and carried away by the Assyrian forces. (FN: Michelle Marcus, p. 78). A study of the iconography of the tree as a motif in relief sculpture, textile patterns and in glyptic seals reveals this iconography. Trees as tribute ranked with gold and silver and horses, symbolizing Imperialism and hegemony in geographical expansion, which, of course, ranked as one of the King's major accomplishments.
Looking at the annals, records of the Assyrian kings taking tribute occur as early as Shalmaneser III. Musukkannu wood was considered tribute along with precious metals such as silver, gold, tin and bronze, as well as elephant tusks from Adini, after the Babylonian campaign of 850B.C.
Musukkannu trees, along with gold and silver, are recorded as tribute to Sennacherib from the Governor of Hararate, a Babylonian fortress. (OIP 2, 26, I: 55).
Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms (1970), 149, 154. 17-21) Ebony and boxwood were sent to Sennacherib when he lay siege to Jerusalem and forced Hezekkiah to surrender. (ANET 276 p. 288)
For the palace at Nineveh, Esarhadon looked to Syria and Cyprus for 22 princes to send him tribute of cypress and cedar:
"Great beams and tall trunks, logs (or planks) of cedar and cypress from Mt. Sirara (Hermon) and Mt. Lebanon. from out of the mountains I had them dragged to Ninevah with toil and pain. Long cedar beams I stretched over it (for its roof) door -leaves of cypress, whose scent is sweet, I covered with a sheathing of silver and copper, and hung (them) in its doors. ARAB 2. 697-8.
This textual evidence, in cataloguing, supports the use of wood as tribute in the reliefs.
When Tiglath Pileser III in 745 conquered and annexed Syria and Lebanon, the very existence of a landscaped garden in the first centuries of the first millennium B.C. in Assyria created interesting issues about cross cultural relations. (Oppenheim, JNES)
In the Annals of Tiglath Pileser III, (Luckenbill, 1989, p. 288) 804 "With the keen understanding and grasp of intellect with which the Master of the gods, the prince Nudimmut (Ea) endowed me, a palace of cedar. and a portico (bit hilanni) patternerd after a Hittite (Syrian) palace, for my enjoyment, I built in Kalal (Kahi)." Tiglath Pileser's innovative policy towards the West, was to differentiate the geographical topography in terms of its plants and trees and literally transport or transplant them into the domesticated home landscape.
Wooded forests furnish building materials for the architecture of the palaces. "Warriors Hewing Down Trees" (OF. DIII SWV Barnett and Falkner the Sculpture. slab la on Wall e) magnificently renders this harvest of the trees. Plantations of sisso trees were found growing in Babylon in Tiglath Pileser III's time.
Parks included cypress and sissoo (musukkannu) trees lay in the field (S.E.) of the city near the dam made to hold back the River Kosr in flood. Sufficient trees, saplings, and cuttings collected from diverse lands and mountain regions were contained in these gardens in order to be harvested for construction of the palaces.
In the late Assyrian period, musukkannu wood was used by carpenters, boat builders and craftsmen for furniture, buildings, bedsteads, ships, cabins, the construction of vehicles and the doors of palaces. (Hyslop, p. 70)
A few centuries later, boxwood inlaid with ivory, in beds, chairs and tables were included in booty from a Syrian campaign. (8) ANET 275 After defeating the Hittites, and assuming control of Syria, the power of Phoenician coastal cities was further reduced, and tribute was drawn in ebony and boxwood, along with gold, silver and ivory. (35) ANET 276 (FN: for full discussion, see Meigs)
A large-scale relief in the Louvre, taken from the palace at Khorsabad shows Phoenician vessels carrying or towing large timber beams on deck, while other empty boats are moving in the opposite direction, perhaps, to reload. These timbers were felled on the slopes of Lebanon and were being transported to a Syrian port. When cities in Cyprus surrendered to Sargon II, their gifts included objects of boxwood. (7 Ezekiel) (ANET 284)
The Assyrian Kings did not invent the garden. In the Sargonid period, the new fashion was to set a garden outside the royal palace. The garden in Mesopotamia was a sacred localized space, bound up with economics, poetry and religion. The garden once served as the place for the king to participate in rituals.
Sargon II records the beauty of palace gardens and of fertile trees during his campaign to Ulhu, the capital of Ursa in Urartu in 714 B.C. "The gardens were the pleasant feature of the city and the trees were loaded with fruits and bunches of grapes." (TCL 3 233)
The natural representation of the tree informs us about arboreal specimens and acts as a symbolic pointer to geographical location. Artistically, the tree motif is employed as a perspectival element, and as a spatial arrangement in the stacking of registers.
The representation of trees transcends the subject matter of military conquests which, as the war scribes attest, display imperialism, and dominate the art production. The trees stand in apposition to the predominance of sieges and victory, the taking of captives and booty, in depiction on the reliefs. Trees represent the conversion of goals of empire into the goals of cultivation and civilization.
Trees are employed iconographically as a sign of military victory. Under the "scorch and burn" policy, trees are felled during the warriors' conquest. The desertification assured that renewal of strength and prosperity among the inhabitants would be suppressed in the land for many years. Restoring fertility involves reforestation policies, issues still a major concern of the world community today, most recently manifested in the Noble Prize granted for tree planting over the past 30 years in Kenya and of 20-30m trees. The removal of trees was manifestation of total imperial Supremacy and domination as represented in Tiglath Pileser III's reliefs. (Relief 9 and 10 British Museum, 118882, (plates IV, VI) of the Central Palace)
The Annals, official royal texts written by the Assyrian kings, document his achievement and enhance his image and prestige. Such hierarchically ranked events include victories in campaign battles, building activities, his list of attributes, and the trees. A king's personal virtue and courage, exhibited in a difficult battle, can often be referenced by the appearance of the fruit of a tree. In a portrait of Tiglath Pileser III, the sun shade is decorated with fruit-like ornaments along the rim, and with a pomegranate from the pomegrante tree, on its top.
Illustration. (FN: Relief 36. (pl. LXIX) cf. also Central Palace XII (pl VIII). (Layard, p. 35)
The Tree as Symbolic Geograpy and Landscape
Date palms served an economic role in gardens. (FN: AL Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, 1964, p. 312) A stylized date palm is an early motive (FN, Roof, p. 189) A single palm tree is often found "floating" on the landscape in a relief. Artists in the period of Tiglath Pileser, added such legible indices as the single upright date palm, to represent many date palms, and to stand for Babylonia. In Slab 2 Pls.
XXXIV, XXXVIII,(FN. P. 8 Layard), "Seige of a City", date palms are visible on the bank of the fortified city, which the Assyrians are attacking, signaling that it is Babylonia. However, when an uprooted palm tree is depicted lying on its side, it mirrors the dislocated defeated individuals in limbo as well as the exile's homelessness. (FN: Auerbach, p. 82) (llustration: Plate VIIIa, known only through Layard's drawings)
The treatment of trees in spatial relief is more or less legible. The degree of accuracy in representing naturalistic topographical detail, can be decoded, such as in curls representing a river. Typically,trees are positioned on top of a hill or mountain, represented by scales. Soldiers may be depicted traversing such a slope, on a military campaign, or in another instance, the king and his attendants may be on a hunt for animals. Layered, one above the other, the figures give the appearance of suspension in mid-air.
The way in which trees are visually represented charts the development in perspectival sophistication. In slabs 8-9 (Illustration) Sennacherib's palace (FN: Grindhart), inverted trees represent a valley on the other side of the landscape. (FH: Russell, p. 210). Such trees are emblematic of empire. Stacking the trees in registers is common, with variants. We find trees represented in the stele of Narim Sin, as in the Rassam cylinder. Leaves are also represented on a Lachish room relief, in the SW Palace.
Trees as Arboreal Horticulture
The formal ornamental garden develops progressively. Plants are collected both for pleasure and for display in the landscaped garden, which will be accompanied by a hunting park. Sennacherib's hunting park and botanical garden demonstrate a cultic correspondence to a god's activities. (FN: ABL 366)
Collecting plants as botanical or horticultural specimens for gardens dates from Tiglath Pileser I. (. ) This Assyrian king wanted orchards in his country. (AKA 91 vii 23, 26). Trees were collected, not only for their utilitarian value, but for their botanical interest and for their display value, which would enhance the pride of a city or garden. (FN: F. Kocher. Keilschrifttexte zur assyrisch-babylonischen Drogen-und Pflanzenkunde (1955).
47 (vii 17 ) I took cedar, box-tree, Kanish oak from the lands over which I had gained dominion - such trees which none among previous kings, my forefathers, had Ever planted - and I planted (them_ in the orchards of my land. I took rare orchard fruit which is not found in my land. I took rare orchard fruit which is not found in my land (and herewith) filled the orchards of Assyria. (Grayson, 1976, p. 17) The Annals of Tiglath Pileser.
The Cedar Tree
The cedar tree is, in effect, a symbol of the imperial conquest of other lands, representing travel outside the perimeters. Although cypress and Junipers were also attractive trees, they did not compare in height and beauty to the cedar. Patrician in character, the cedar's attractive aromatic scent and its durable wood resisted rot and insects. The wood would take a good polish, and had a fine close straight grain which made it easy to work with, and thereby, appealing to the carpenters.
Kings took pride in the fragrance of the woods as well as in the length of the timbers, as Tigleth Pileser speaks of Nimrud:
"With long cedar beams, no fragrance is as good as that of the cypress tree, products of Ananus, Leganon an Ammannama (Hermon) I roofed them (the palaces) and brought them to fautless completion." ARAB 2. 804)
A variety of woods were chosen for furniture and paneling in different wings or rooms of the palace. One record translates:
"a palace of cedar, a palace of cypress, a palace of juniper, a palace of boxwood, a palace of mulberry, a palace of pistachio, a palace of tamarick." (A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Royal Inscriptions. 1972. I. 166 (653). Discussed by D.J. Wiseman, IRAQ 14 (1952) 28.
The records show that Assurnasirpal II appreciated the wood so much that he cut down the grove of "musukkannu trees" adjacent to the city wall of Sapia, the chief city of the Amukkanu tree, and "left not a single tree" on his campaign in Babylonia in 731 B.C. (Rost, TPIII, Leipzig, 1893 p. 60: 24) 7
Many kinds of trees were employed for use in Architecture and the wood was praised for the "unbounded joy" and for a fragrance "which penetrates to the heart".
Recorded in Tiglath Pileser III's ANNALS:
"a palace of cedar "Their (the palaces) doorways, of ivory, maple box-wood, mulberry, cedar. juniper, tribute of the Hittitte Kings of the princes of the Aramaeans and of Chaldea. Whicih I brought in submission to my feet through my valorous heroism (I made and I richly adorned them. "With tall cedar beams, whose fragrance is as good as that of the cypress tree, products of Amanus, Lebanon and Ammanana (Anti - Lebanon) . The doorleaves of cedar and cypress, which give unbounded joy to the one entering them (and) shoe odour penetrates to the heart, I bound with a sheathing of shining zahalu and (sariru) and hung (them) in the door-(ways) xxvi Layard.
Scent is also praised in this passage in which Esarhaddon, as an act of reconciliation, builds a great temple of Babylonian gods: "with mighty beams (of cedar), products of Mr. Amanus. I spanned its roof. Door leaves of "cypress") whose odour is pleasant, I boun with a band of gold and silver and hung them in their doors." ARAB 2, 653.
Assurbanipal records appreciation of the fragrant quality of the timbers:
"Great cedars which had grown exceedingly tall on Mt. Lebanon, cypresss logs whose odour is pleasant, which Adad had made beautiful on Mt. Sirara (Hermon), which the kings of the sea coast my vassels had felled. with these I roofed Ehulhul the abode of gladness (the temple of Sinat Harram)"
Sennacherib's palace was constructed with musukkannu wood. Documenting his harvest of trees in the mountain:
"With my countless chariots, I have gone up
High in the mountains, into the recesses of Lebanon.
I have cut down the tallest cedars, the best of its (junipers),
I have reached its highest limit of Forest and meadow." (Isaiah, Verse 37. 24)
Sennacherib's scribe discusses the use of these desirable tall cedar timbers in the construction of his palace.
"That I may accomplish the construction of my palace. Ashur and Ishtar, who love my priesthood, and have called me by name, showed me how to bring out the mighty cedar logs which had grown large in the days gone by and had become enormously tall as they stood concealed in the mountains of Sirara (Hermon). " ARAB 2. 411.
The Sisso tree as a building material was and still is valued for its excellent working qualities, for its lightness, hardness and durability. Defined as a "large precious tree, bark Frey, heartwood brown with darker veins, leaflets, 3-5. broadly elliptical or ovate" (Brandis, Pl. 13. ) A specimen from Nepal was given to Sir Max Mallowan 1973. In this century, recalling Thomas Pakenham, and his love of trees, his latest passion is building a Himalayan garden in England.
Sennarcherib (704-681) further demonstrated a great love of gardens and parks where he took pleasure in growing many herbs and fruit trees. He created great canals and waterwork systems to water his parks and gardens. He imported olive trees and foreign spice plants (FN: OIP 113, viii, 17ff, p. 80: 20ff). Sennacherib echoes Tiglath Pileser:
"A great park, like unto Mount Amanus, wherein were set out all kinds of herbs and fruit trees, -- trees, such as grow on the mountains and in Chaldea, I planted by its (the palace's) side. That (they might) plant orchards, I sub-divided some land in the plain above the city, into plots of 3 PI each, for the citizens for Ninevah, and gave it to them. (FN: Luckenbill, 1989, p. 162)
Public gardens and plotted gardens for citizens, once established in Assyria, were nurtured and cultivated with cuttings and seeds. 1200 saplings of fruit trees, including 350 pomegrante, 400 fig, and 450 medlar, were provided at one time. FN:
Postgate p cit. pp. 157-8, Nos. 139-40 dr. pl. 198 size and age given) Fruit orchards and gardens were often walled with a locked gateway to protect them against intrusion by thieves, animals, wind and sand.
Other trees were planted to support the perfume industry. (IBID, Postgate, pp. 210-22, No. 215 E. Ebeling, Parfumrezepte and kultische Texte aus Asia (1950), pp. 2-13.
Trees bearing fruit are a commonly acknowledged icon of fertility and of prosperity. All trees are life supporting, in that they provide shade and restfulness from the heat. Trees also provide support for the vines planted beneath their roots, and because of their own rootedness, protect slopes from erosion.
In a six-columned slab inscribed with the chapter, "Innana and Shukallitua: The Gardener's Mortal Sin", Kramer illustrates that the practice of planting shade trees to protect the plants from wind and sun was practiced thousands of years ago."
Assurnsairapli II established a royal garden at Kalhu c. 876 B.C. He planted all varieties of fruits and vines near the citadel and by the R. Tigris, which is watered by the Pai-Nhusi canal leading from the R Zab. (Illustr. Plate V. Wiseman)
Assurnasirapli lists 41 species including trees, saplings, cuttings and seeds collected during his travels.
From lands I traveled and hills I traversed the trees and seeds I noticed (and collected): cedar, cypress, box, Juniperus oxycedrus, myrtle, Juniperus dupracea, almond, date palm, ebony, sissoo, olive, tamarind, oak, terebinth, dukdu-nut tree, Pistacia terebinthus, myrrh-type (ash), mehur -fir, Dead Sea fruit(?), tiatu, Kanis-oak, willow, sadanu, pomegranate, plu, fir, ingirasu, pear, quince, fig, grapevine, angasu-pear, sunlalu, titip(aromatic, sarbutu, zanzaliqu (acacia),
swamp apple" - tree, ricinus, nuhurtu, tazzinu, kanaktu(frankincense). Iraq XIV (1952), 33 11 38-48).
Another entry in the Annals describes these gardens as "gardens of delight" which provide pleasure for the king. Such gardens are irrigated by canals.
The canal - water came flowing down from above to the gardens: the paths (are full) of scent the waterfalls (glisten) like the stars of heaven in the garden of pleaure. The pomegranate trees, which are clothed with clusters of fruit like vines, enrich the breezes in the garden of delights. Annurnsirapli gathers fruit continuously in the garden of joys like a squirrel (?)" J.N. Postgate, The Governor's Palace Archive (CTN II, 1973) pp. 239-40, 11. 48-52)FN: see also, IRAQ XIV(1952
Trees can also be structured into ritual groves which create a social space. A The bitanu is restricted to royalty, for purposes of prestige. The gardens in ancient Mesopotamia were cherished as sources of pleasure as well as fertility by the king, the Nobles, the priests, and the people. FN, p. 144 Wiseman.
Although only a few undisputed representations of trees in gardens occur on the Assyrian sculptures in the palace at Ninevah (Barnett, Sculptures from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Ninevah (1976), p. 14 pl. xxiii), this paper treats the significance of such appearance. The garden on the Ashurbanipal relief, for instance is planned around a hill, on top of which is a garden house. A tree-lined aqueduct and a colonnaded structure are in the upper register. A park like garden with many trees, a small watercourse, and a path extend into the foreground, revealing a gazebo overlooking a park (R.D. Barnett and W. Forman, Assyrian Palace Reliefs, London No. 135.)
Paradise as a garden, (Elizabeth Moynihan, PARADISE AS A GARDEN In PERSIA AND MUGHAL INDIA) is a place in which man transcends his vulnerable mortal condition, and his frailties. She argues, that the garden is an integral part of civilization. The garden is imagined as a place of respite from the world's cares, and a landscape in which the perfection of a heaven might be realized. Among the oldest Sumerian cuneiform tablets wedged into stone, is a poem advancing the Paradise myth.
Dilmun was "pure clear and bright", and its residents knew no pain, or disease, or aging, but it lacked water. Enki, the god of Water, demanded of Utu, the sun god, that a divine garden with fruit trees, green fields and meadows be created, by providing fresh underground water. Erech (Warka, Iraq,27 th century, B.C.), the dominant Sumerian city, was ruled by Gilgamesh, who became a hero to the Akkadians and Babylonians.
In fragments of the Epic of Gilgamesh, found on the Babylonian tablets, the paradise myth is revealed.
And lo! The gesdin (tree) shining stands
With crystal branches in the golden sands,
In this immortal garden stands the Tree,
With trunk of gold, and beautiful to see.
Beside a sacred fount the tree is placed,
With emeralds and unknown gems is graced.(FN, Moynihan, Elizabeth, p. 3)
The textual evidence in the great Near Eastern legend of GILGAMESH provides us accounts of trees, our focus. Gilgamesh and Enkidu visit the forest to destroy the guardian monster and to cut down trees.
"They stood still and gazed at the forest,
They looked at the height of the cedars,
They looked at the entrance to the forest,
Where Humbaba was wont to walk was a path
Straight were the tracks and good was the going.
They beheld the cedar mountain, abode of the god,
Throne seat of Irnini.
From the face of the mountain
The cedars raise aloft their luxuriance.
Good is their shade, full of delight.
(J.B. Pritchard, ed. Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament 1969 82 tablet)
The ERIN tree, a variety of cedar species, is singled out in GILGAMESH.
Upon crossing the seventh mountain
. he did not wander about
The lord Gilgamesh fells the ERIN-tree"
Gilgamesh fells trees on his path, clearing the way, and cuts down six trees in succession.
"The sons of his city who accompanied him,
Cut down the branches, bundle them up,
Lay them at the foot of the mountain. L.
When the monster, Huwawa, or Humban, the chief god of Elam, pleads for mercy, he offers to cut down trees and build houses for Gilgamesh. It can be conjectured that Gilgamesh has undertaken this journey to the Land of the Living, to the kingdom of the sun god, Utu, in order to find timber, in the form of the ERIN tree, probably Juniperus excelsa, for the construction of houses at Uruk.
By the time of the period of Sargon of Akkad (---), ERIN trees had been so harvested and the forests so depleted, that new sources had to be sought in the West. The ERIN tree may have been identified by different names, in the widely separated regions of the Ancient Near East, or may have been found in diverse locations on a variety of mountains, in different time periods.
According to evidence found in inscriptions, later rulers of Assyrian, Babylonia and Persia brought Gis ERIN from the following regions:
Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.) and Sargon II (721-705 B.C.) from Mt. Amanus,
Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.), Mt. Amanus and Mt. Hermon (in E. Lebanon).
Assurbanipal (668-631 B.C.) from Mt. Lebanon and Mt. Hermon. FN. J Hansman, p. 32) Narim - Sin, Sargon of Akkad, and then of Gudea, attest to their control of the mountain where ERIN trees had been found and stripped.
In Gilgamesh, Enkidu says,
"Inform Utu, the valiant Utu,
The "land" it is Utu's chage,
The Land of the felled ERIN -Trees
It is the valiant Utu's charge". L. i
"Utu, I would enter the &lsquoland',
Be my ally. I would enter the land of the
Felled ERIN - trees, be my ally".
ERIN, or Juniper Excelsa, with wood of a light color, grows in Elam. A fragrant wood, of good quality, J. Excelsa was used for timber. This lumber, which has a scent similar to cedar, was employed in door casements, as well as in building furniture.
When Gilgamesh wanders into the garden of the gods, he provides us this speech:
"And low! The gesdin (tree) shining stands
With crystal branches in the golden sans
In this immortal garden stands the Tree,
With trunk of gold, and beautiful to see,
Beside a sacred fount, the tree is placed,
With emeralds and unknown gems is graced." (L.)
This land is geographically situated in the Zagros Mountains of South-Central Iran, and /or sited in the Amanus mountains, found in Lebanon, as attested to, in several Assyrian texts. J. Hansmann (FN. P 26, Gelb, 1935) suggested that the ERIN mountains are rather the Amanus Mountains of Northern Syria, and not those mountains in Lebanon.
The garden serves as a harbinger of change in the ancient world.
Once man stops pillaging, scorching and burning, he realizes the value of claiming tribute. Civilized exchange based on reciprocity in trade develops. A new order and communication is opened to ambassadors who come and are entertained in these gardens and paneled reception rooms.
By following the motive of the tree in Near Eastern art, and by reading the text of Gilgamesh, and the Kings' Annals, we find the sacred transforming into a more social symbol, the numinous becoming human, and the tree, becoming an object for displaying power and authority, as well as prosperity.
Moving through stages of utilitarian function with the date palm, to one of display of empire, in the cedars, the garden represents a natural historical integration of geographical expansion. As a visual, perspectival and spatial element in the relief's composition, and as a landscape element, or as tribute, the garden becomes a social and psychological space for the Sumerian and Assyrian warrior kings, who now, because they have achieved sufficient empire, have some leisure and time for celebrating abundance.
In the verses of Ezekiel 31: 3-7.
Look at Assyria: it was a cedar in Lebanon,
Whose fair branches overshadowed the forest,
Towering high with its crown finding a way through the foliage.
Springs nourished it, underground waters gave it height,
Their streams washed the soil all around it
And sent forth their rills to every tree in the country.
So it grew taller than every other tree.
Its boughs were many, its branches spread far
For water was abundant in the channels.
In its boughs all the birds of the air had their nests,
And in its shadow all great nations made their home.
A splendid great tree it was, with its long spreading boughs,
For its roots were beside abundant waters.
Andrae, W. "Der Kultische Garten", WOI (1952) 485 ff.
Besserat, D. Schmandt "The Garden of Ancient Egypt", 1978, pp. 43-45.
Bleibtrau, Erika. DIE FLORA DER NEUASSYRISCHEN RELIEFS. Verlag Des Institutes fur Orientalistik Der Universitat Wien. 1980.
Civil, M. "Herbs and Gardens 4000 Years Ago" The Herbarist 28: 1962, pp. 21-4.
Ebeling, Karl. "Garten", Reallexikon der Assyriologie III 1957-71.
Ettinghausen, Elizabeth. Princeton, NJ. (Interview) The Cedars of Lebanon. Recollections.
Fauzi, Rasheed. "The Hanging Gardens are the Refrigerator of Babylon", The Governors' Palace Archive. Postgate, J.N. CTNII 1973.
Gleason, Kathryn L.. "To Bound and to Cultivate: An Introduction to the Archaeology of Gardens and Fields". ARCHAEOLOGY OF GARDEN AND FIELD.
Hansman, J. "Gilgamesh, Humbaba and the Land of the Erin Trees" IRAQ 38. 1976. pp. 23-25.
Hawks, Ellison. PIONEERS OF PLANT STUDY. London: The Sheldon Press, New York and Toronto: The Macmillan Co., 1928.
Kocher, Franz. Keilschrifttexte zur assyrisch babylonischen Drogen und Pfandzenkunde 1955.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. FROM THE TABLETS OF SUMER. "Horticulture: The First Experiment in Shade-Tree Gardening", The Falcon's Wing Press, 1956. pp. 66-70.
Luckenbill, ANNALS OF SENNACHERIB. 1924.
Maxwell-Hyslop, K.R. "Dalbergia Sissoo Roxburgh", ANATOLIAN STUDIES. Pp. 69-71.
Meigs, Russell. "The Cedars of Lebanon", pp. 89-96 "Cypress and Juniper in Hebrew and Assyrian Texts", pp. 416-420. TREES AND TIMBER IN THE ANCIENT MEDITERREAN WORLD. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1982.
Moyhihan, Elizabeth. PARADISE AS A GARDEN. II. "The Paradise Myth", pp 2-7. George Brazilier, New York, 1979.
Marcus, Clare Cooper. "The Garden as Metaphor", MEANINGS OF THE GARDEN. University of California, David, California. May 14-17, 1987.
Oppenheim, A. Leo. "On Royal Gardens in Mesopotamia". JNES 24 (1965) pp. 328-329.
Randhawa, Mohinder Singh. GARDENS THROUGH THE AGES. The Macmillan Company of India Limited. 1976.
Rost, TIGLATH PILESER III Leipzig, 1893. Vol 60: 24.
Stein, Achva Benzinberg. "Thoughts on the Meaning of Gardens Occasioned by the Old Testament", pp. 350-355. MEANINGS OF THE GARDEN. Proceedings of a Working Conference to Explore the Social Psychological and Cultural Dimensions of Gardens, University of California, Davis. May 14-17, 1987. Editors: Mark Francis, Randolph T. Hester, Jr. Center for Design Research, Dept of Environmental Design, University of California, Davis.
Wiseman, Donald J. "Mesopotamian Gardens", ANATOLIAN STUDIES, pp. 137-144.
Wiseman, Donald J. "Palaces and Temple Gardens in the Near East". MONARCHIES AND SOCIO-RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS IN THE NEAR EAST. Ed. H.I.H. Prince Takahito Mikasa. Otto Harrassowitz Wiesbaden. 1984.
Woodbridge, Micaelea. Chart of illustrations.
British Museum 118900. Relief 26 King Tiglath-Pileser III Central Palace (Layard)
Maps: Development of the Assyrian Empire. 2, 3. Olmstead.
"Priest Offering Flowers" Tiglath Pileser. Or. Dr. III: S.W. XIV Slab 10.
Pal upright, in Dr. III. Central II. "Idols and captives from a conquered nation". Layard Drawing. (original lost) CENTRAL PALACE. Plate VII. : Series A. Upper Register: Slab 6a Babylonian campaign. Central Palace. Plate VI. Barnet and Falkner. The Sculptures of Assurnasirapli II, Tiglath -pileser III, Esarhaddon from the central and south-west palaces at Nimrud.
Or. Dr. III. Central VIII. "Assyrian chariot with spearmen advancing and seige" Central Palace. Series A. Upper Register: Slab 4a Babylonian Campaign. Plate IX. Barnet and Falkner.
Or. Dr. III: S.W.V. "Warriors hewing down trees" Wall e: Slab 1a Barent and Falkner
Royal Gardens depicted on bas-relief from the Palace of Ashurbanipal at Ninevah. (British Museum 1/24730) IV b: Wiseman.
Description of the Royal Garden on the stela of Assurnasirapli II at Kalhu (Nimrud, 876 B.C.) V: Wiseman.
Meigs. Cedrus Libani Cedrus libani with Juniperus foetissima. The Cedar Tree.
2. Cutting Lebanon Trees for the Egyptians
(Hunting scene) Sargon's Palace at Khorsabad. Room 7 slabs 1-2.
46 J. Reade.Hunting Scene, carved in dark stone from the palace of Sargon, Khorsabad. 710 B.C
3A Phoenician transport of Lebanon timber for the Assyrians. J. Reade?
6 Men of Nin I 6 and 7 (Trees Being Hewn Down). Palace of Sennacherib. (Paterson 80)
Carrying Home Tribute through the forests on the mountain.
Deer in Sennacherib's Nature Reserve at Ninevah. (British Museum 124824)
Fig. 121. Fighting in the Babylonian Marshes. Olmstead. Fig 121.
Tree and Plough in Glazed Bricks. Palace of Sargon. Olmstead Fig. 120
The Sacred Tree and numinous guardian figures.
2014: Noah’s Ark comes to rest on top of Mt. Ararat, says Chabad
1905: A father of biblical archaeology in Israel is born
1700: The first Jew to be made a knight is born
According to tradition, Judah would go on to father the great leaders of Jewish history, including the line of King David (whose existence remains to be categorically proven, though in 1993-4, a stele from 830 BCE bearing the earliest known reference to the House of David was found at Tel Dan).
Judah was born in Haran, which was also the purported hometown of Terah, the father of patriarch Abraham, according to the bible. His name literally means "thanks," attesting to his mother Leah's gratitude to the Lord at helping her gain the affection of her husband Jacob by enabling her to quicken, while her rival wife Rachel remained barren: "Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah " (Genesis 29:31-35). He would be her last son.
The very word "Jew" itself arose from Judah's name, which is the origin of the name of the original Israelite nation. Its first ex-biblical mention is in a clay tablet found in Nimrud (the ancient Assyrian capital flattened by ISIS). The tablet, from about 733 BCE, describes the King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria's military exploits – which include crushing the king “Jehoahaz of the land Judah.”
The capture of the city of Astartu by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III about 730–727 B.C., as depicted on a palace relief now kept on display at the British Museum. Mary G90/Wikimedia Commons
Born in the cradle of civilization
Haran was an inland city in Upper Mesopotamia, today part of southern Turkey, near the city of Şanlurfa. Many believe that regions now in Turkey and Iraq were the cradle of modern civilization, the place where man shifted from a hunting-gathering, nomadic existence and began to settle.
According to the biblical lore, Rebeccah had sent Jacob to Haran, also the hometown of her brother Laban, to protect him from the infuriated Esau. It was in Haran that Jacob saw and fell in love with his cousin Rachel, only to be tricked into marrying her sister Leah first.
(Haran is also startlingly near Gobekli Tepe, a site dating back some 12,000 years featuring gigantic, elaborate stone cultic monuments, which has been baffling archaeologists since its discovery.)
Khirbet Qeiyafa: Are these the ruins of King David's palace? Tali Mayer
The account of Judah being born in the Anatolian mountain region of southern Turkey or Iraq, and eventually dying 119 years later – on this very same day, the 15th of Sivan – in Egypt, is certainly plausible from the perspective of travel at the time. Archaeologists now know that Judah's era, some 3500 to 3600 years ago, was marked by brisk trading and cultural relations not only between the peoples living on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but between the Levant and Europe, all the way to the northernmost reaches of Scandinavia.
The Reign and Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III, an Assyrian Empire Builder (744-727 BC)
1 The inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC) have attracted scholarly interest since the very dawn of Assyriology, with the first discoveries at Nimrud by Layard in the mid-19th century. The search for new evidence for this Assyrian monarch, who played a crucial role in stories told in the Bible, was of prime importance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since then, it has become fully apparent that his reign marked the beginning of the imperial phase of Assyria, and that this period of time should be regarded as a watershed in the history of the ancient Near East.
2 The kingdom of Assyria first formed as a territorial state, along with its provincial system, in the fourteenth–thirteenth centuries, in the Middle Assyrian Period. From the twelfth century to mid-eighth century, Assyria’s territorial holdings were repeatedly reduced and expanded, but the extension of the “Land of the god Aššur”, i.e., Assyria Proper, was confined to the borders established at the height of Assyria’s power in the Middle Assyrian Period. Assyria’s fortunes changed dramatically when Tiglath-pileser III ascended the throne. In the course of his eighteen-year reign, this king reshaped the political map of the ancient Near East. With his vigorous annual campaigns, he annexed large territories in Syria and Palestine in the west, as well as other lands in the north, east, and south. He created many new provinces beyond the “traditional” borders of Assyria and utterly transformed the demographic nature of the entire Near East through unprecedented, large-scale “two-way” deportations of conquered peoples. Towards the end of his reign, he conquered Babylonia, and not only took the traditional title “king of the lands Sumer and Akkad”, but also declared himself “king of Babylon” and participated in the akītu-festival at Babylon by taking the hand of the god Marduk, something none of his predecessors had done.
3 The preparation of a new edition of the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III and his son and successor Shalmaneser V, with the late Hayim Tadmor, for the Royal Inscriptions of Neo-Assyrian Period Project, which is under the direction of Professor Grant Frame (University of Pennsylvania), has given the speaker an opportunity to study anew this rich, yet fragmentarily preserved corpus of historical texts. This Assyrian king’s texts were inscribed on a variety of objects made of stone (wall and floor slabs, steles, rock faces, bull colossi, beads, etc.), clay (tablets, bricks, etc.), and metal (lion weights). Following Tadmor’s historiographic criteria for classification of the corpus, Tiglath-pileser III’s inscriptions fall into three categories: (1) Annals, texts whose historical narrative is arranged chronologically (2) Summary Inscriptions, texts whose narrative is arranged in a predominantly geographical pattern and (3) Miscellaneous Texts, texts classified as labels, dedicatory inscriptions, as well as other texts that are too fragmentarily preserved.
4 Most of his inscriptions originate from Nimrud, ancient Kalhu, in particular from Tiglath-pileser III’s palace, which he had constructed towards the end of his reign. The walls of this once majestic palace, which Layard referred to as “Central Palace,” were lined with large sculpted and inscribed stone orthostats those slabs were not only carved with bas-reliefs, but also with the king’s annals (the “Kalhu Annals”), long narrative accounts of Tiglath-pileser III’s annual victories on the battlefield. Some of that palace’s floors were decorated with large slabs inscribed with text summarizing his many deeds. Unfortunately, the structure of the “Central Palace” had been severely disturbed in antiquity a later Assyrian king (Esarhaddon) began dismantling its superstructure and had its sculpted and inscribed wall slabs removed so that they could be reused in his own royal residence. Moreover, the archaeological context of many of the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III from Kalhu were unfortunately never properly recorded, thus making the reconstruction of the best historical source for this period (the “Kalhu Annals”) very complicated, especially since only one-third or less of the original text is preserved today. Gaps in the annals are, however, can be filled in by other annalistic texts, especially those written on a stele from Iran and on a rock face at Mila Mergi (in Iraqi Kurdistan), as well as by passages in his summary inscriptions. Interweaving these and other texts of Tiglath-pileser III with chronographic texts, especially the Eponym Chronicle and the Babylonian Chronicle, we can securely reconstruct the accomplishments of Tiglath-pilser III in historical order.
3,800-Year-Old Wall Relief Unearthed Inward Peru
Archaeologists discovered an ancient wall relief inwards Peru, belonging to the oldest civilizations inwards the Americas, word means Andina reported on Thursday. The wall is unopen to 3,800 years quondam together with portrays snakes together with human heads.
|A handout photograph made available past times the Archaeological Zone of Caral shows a novel wall alongside reliefs of some |
3,800 years old, which has been discovered inwards the ruins of Vichama, Republic of Peru [Credit: EPA]
The Vichama site is 1 of the earthworks points of the of late discovered Caral civilization, too known equally Norte Chico, together with has been explored past times archaeologists since 2007.
The Caral civilisation is 5,000 years old, making it the oldest civilisation inwards the Americas, together with flourished at the same fourth dimension equally the thriving Mesopotamian, Egyptian together with Chinese civilizations. The Caral people lived inwards the Supe Valley along the north-central coast of Peru.
Dating dorsum to 1800 together with 3500 BC, Vichama is idea to convey been a line-fishing community together with 1 of the Caral peoples' diverse cities. The wall was made of adobe, a clay-like cloth from which bricks are made together with was located at the entry request of a ceremonial hall.
The wall relief shows 4 human heads, side past times side, their eyes closed, alongside 2 snakes passing betwixt together with about them. The snakes request their heads to what appears to hold upwards a humanoid seed symbol that is digging into the soil.
Archaeologist Ruth Shady, who oversees the site together with announced the discovery, hypothesized that the serpents stand upwards for a H2O deity that irrigates the Earth together with makes seeds grow.
Shady said the relief was probable done towards the goal of a drought together with famine that the Caral civilisation experienced. Other reliefs discovered nearby showed emaciated humans.
Archaeologists believe that the relief regain reinforces the notion that these early on humans were attempting to draw the difficulties they faced due to climate alter together with H2O scarcity, which had a large affect on their agricultural production.
The Caral earthworks site has together with hence far unearthed the ruins of 22 buildings inwards a 25-hectare space, dating dorsum to betwixt 1800 together with 1500 BC.
Blessings, Curses and Restoration: A Prophetic Pattern
In the eighth century BCE, the prophet Hosea proclaimed blessings, curses, captivity and ultimate restoration for the ancient kingdom of Israel. But those prophecies actually date from much earlier.
Another prophet, Hosea, was active a little later, focusing mainly on the northern kingdom of Jeroboam II, though he is also mentioned in connection with Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Hosea 1:1). Again, the purpose of most of his pronouncements was to warn the northern tribes, often referred to collectively as “Ephraim,” of their coming destruction and exile.
During Jeroboam’s reign, God spoke through the minor prophet Jonah as well. He is best known for his reluctant prophetic mission to the significant regional power, Assyria, and its capital, Nineveh, during which he famously encountered a great fish (Jonah 1–3). Much to Jonah’s chagrin, Assyria changed course at his public warnings and avoided punishment, forestalling their eventual invasion of Israel and deportation of its inhabitants. Jonah would have preferred to see them destroyed rather than achieve what he expected for his own people at their hands. But God chided him for his unmerciful attitude: “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (4:11).
“ The prophets . . . considered themselves spokespersons for Yahweh, who through them called his people back to obedience to the covenant he had given them many centuries before.”
Douglas Stuart, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 31: Hosea-Jonah
Jonah also prophesied the recapture of Israel’s territories from Hamath to the Dead Sea (2 Kings 14:25). Though we do not know which of these two prophetic missions came first, perhaps they are interrelated. The fact of Nineveh’s willingness to hear the word of an Israelite prophet, the fact of Israel’s recovery of land, and the accompanying statements that “there was no helper for Israel” and “the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam” (14:26–27) may explain why the Assyrians did not attack in Jeroboam’s time. Though his rule was comparable to that of his corrupt namesake, who had led Israel into idolatry when the northern tribes first seceded, God in His mercy determined not to bring Israel down just yet.
Uzziah: Uncovering a King of Judah
H e’s best known as the “Leprous King” and one of Judah’s longest-reigning monarchs. Despite his 52-year reign, however, the biblical account of his kingship is contained primarily in only two chapters of the Bible—2 Kings 15 and its parallel chronology, 2 Chronicles 26. Within the brief account of his reign, this fascinating king, identified by two different names, presided over a significant period of Judahite prosperity, made a fatal mistake in the temple, became a leper, and experienced one of the greatest-ever earthquakes to strike the nation.
Adding to this fascinating story is a trove of artifacts including seals, tablets and more, proving not only the existence of this king but also details of his reign.
Uzziah–Azariah: A Brief Chronology
“Uzziah” is the name used in the Chronicles account of this king, and both “Uzziah” and “Azariah” are used in the Kings account. There is no definite reason why this king bore two similar Hebrew names. Perhaps one was a given name and the other a throne name.
Uzziah began his long rule over Judah at the age of 16, during the reign of King Jeroboam of Israel. His father, Amaziah, reigned over a turbulent time in Jewish-Israelite relations—conflict between both sides had resulted in Jerusalem being ransacked and destroyed by the Israelites. Uzziah’s father was later murdered at Lachish.
Uzziah’s rule, on the other hand, marked a time of growth and rebuilding for Judah. “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:4). Uzziah had many miraculous victories against the Philistines, and mounted a vast national rebuilding program. In a somewhat Solomonic manner, his fame spread throughout the surrounding regions.
“But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (verse 16). Uzziah made a fatal error: Despite the desperate pleading of more than 80 priests, the king entered the temple in order to burn incense on the altar before the Holy of Holies. Suddenly, leprosy broke out across the king’s face, and the priests quickly thrust him out. (The priest leading the protest against him was named Azariah—perhaps Uzziah came to be called Azariah because of this attempt to take on the priest’s position in offering incense.)
Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death, living in an infirmary while his son Jotham stepped in as co-regent. During Uzziah’s rule, a ferocious earthquake hammered Judah and the surrounding region (some attribute this to his actions in the temple). This earthquake was so intense (for a region that experiences earthquakes with relative regularity) that it was used as a timestamp, as in Amos’s prophecy: “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1).
Uzziah died in seclusion and was buried separately from Judah’s great kings. His son Jotham reigned in his place, governing righteously and continuing Judah’s prosperity.
Such is the brief biblical history of Uzziah. What does the scientific evidence say?
Seals of the Royal Servants
Two stone seals came to light in the mid-1800s, both belonging to high-ranking servants. Though the seals are unprovenanced, there is nothing to suggest they were forged. The inscription style on them fits within the specific eighth century b.c.e . time period. One seal is translated: “Belonging to Abijah, servant of Uzziah.” The other: “Belonging to Shebnaiah, servant of Uzziah.”
Both servants’ names, Abijah and Shebna (the short form of “Shebnaiah”), are found in the Bible. Not only that, both names are found in use during the specific century of Uzziah’s rule—eighth century b.c.e . (This is important, as certain names fall in and out of use during different biblical periods.) The seals, therefore, give us a small glimpse into Uzziah’s royal court.
An Earthquake: The Evidence
“Ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah,” so prophesied the Prophet Zechariah about the end time just before the coming of the Messiah (Zechariah 14:5). Archaeology has revealed an abundance of evidence for “Uzziah’s earthquake” (often called Amos’s earthquake due to the fact that he dates his message around it, and makes several references to earthquake-like destruction).
Archaeologists have found massive amounts of earthquake damage in sites throughout the ancient kingdoms of Judah, Israel and the Philistines. This earthquake damage dates to around 760 b.c.e. , right around the latter third of Uzziah’s reign. Tilted walls, collapsed floors and more are attributed to this earthquake. So great is the amount of evidence, that scientists have been able to determine the epicenter was likely in Lebanon, and that its strength was probably around a magnitude 8.2, with a Modified Mercalli intensity of 9. Geologist Steven Austin, Ph.D., writes (emphasis added):
[This event] appears to be the largest yet documented on the Dead Sea Transform fault zone during the last four millennia. The Dead Sea Transform fault likely ruptured along more than 400 kilometers as the ground shook violently for over 90 seconds! The urban panic created by this earthquake would have been legendary.
The long duration of the earthquake—90 seconds—explains the Prophet Zechariah’s statement that people were “fleeing” while the earth was still rumbling.
There’s no telling the death toll from such a massive earthquake. We do have data, though, from earthquakes of somewhat lesser intensity that hit the region, from which we can get a loose picture. Two intensity-8 earthquakes occurred on the Dead Sea Transform fault—one in c.e . 749, killing 100,000 people, and one in c.e . 526, killing 255,000. And remember, the 760 b.c.e . earthquake was another intensity level higher!
Josephus wrote that this earthquake occurred while Uzziah was attempting to offer incense in the temple. He wrote that “a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately.” He also claimed that a nearby mountainside collapsed, causing a significant landslide that destroyed roads and the king’s prized gardens.
Whatever the actual damage and death toll, the dating and general data of this quake powerfully back up the description of it by the prophets Amos and Zechariah.
Tiglath-Pileser III Weighs In
An interesting fragmentary inscription belonging to Tiglath-Pileser iii mentions several times “Azrijâu mât Jaudaai,” translated as “Azariah of Judah” (Uzziah’s secondary name). Pileser iii ’s annals mention that in the first years of his reign (c. 740 b.c.e. ), he led a campaign into Syria:
Nineteen districts of the town Hamath, together with the towns in their circuit, which are situated on the coast of the Western Sea, which in their sin and wickedness sided with Azariah, I turned to the territory of Assyria.
This text sounds unusual at first—why would towns in Syria, north of the kingdom of Israel, be allied with Judah’s King Uzziah–Azariah? Yet this squares with the biblical record for this period. 2 Kings 14:28 reads: “Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he recovered Damascus, and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for Israel ….” Remember the intense civil wars that took place between Judah and Israel during the reign of Uzziah’s father. This continued on into the reign of Jeroboam, who recaptured Judahite-claimed cities within Syria. This may have happened midway through Uzziah’s reign. Tiglath-Pileser iii was on the scene around the end of Uzziah’s reign (2 Kings 15). Apparently, at this point, the allegiance of certain Syrian towns still lay with Uzziah’s Judah. And there is a strong reason why this would be the case.
Toward the end of Uzziah’s life, the northern kingdom of Israel was in upheaval, with assassinations and usurpations. Jeroboam’s son Zechariah only lasted six months before being murdered and replaced by Shallum, who in turn only lasted one month on the throne before being murdered and replaced by Menahem. Menahem, though, faced resistance from his own people to his reign, from Tiphsah (probably within Syria) as well as the central Israelite town of Tirzah. As a result, Menahem turned on those cities who “opened not up to him” and destroyed them incredulously, “all the women therein that were with child he ripped up” (2 Kings 15:16).
This violent civil war would explain why, as Tiglath-Pileser iii began his reign and conquests, he noticed several Syrian towns had allied themselves with Azariah. There is even a Syrian enclave noted in eighth-century Assyrian annals that is spelled in the same Assyrian form as “Judah”—it seems this northern alliance had even taken up the name of the Jewish nation, showing their rejection of Israelite rule.
2 Kings 15 continues to describe Tiglath-Pileser’s ongoing campaign into Israel against Menahem, who paid off the Assyrian king.
(There has, of course, been dissent among certain scholars about the identity of this “Azrijâu mât Jaudaai” in Tiglath-Pileser’s inscriptions. The weight of evidence, though, points to it being King Azariah–Uzziah of Judah. More information about this can be found here.)
And As for His Bones …
No, the bones of this king have not been found. (Although there is a biblical prophecy that in the last days, the bones of the kings of Judah will be discovered—read about it here.) But a gravestone has been found, known as the “Uzziah Tablet.” This tablet was noticed in the 1930s as part of a Mount of Olives collection in a Russian convent. The engraved stone is written in Aramaic script, dating to the first century c.e . The text reads:
Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Not to be opened.
It appears that this plaque was intended to commemorate a reburial of the king. This likely had to do with Jerusalem’s expansion during the Second Temple period—the tomb, which was already separated in a field (due to Uzziah’s leprosy), needing to be moved to a new location outside the city. Hence, the new reburial plaque. Or, perhaps, Uzziah’s grave was exposed and defiled during King Herod’s grave-robbing, or the field reused for some other purpose and thus the bones had to be moved and reburied. Two hundred years after this purported “reburial” of Uzziah, however, the Tosefta (third century c.e .) assures us that those buried in the chief kingly sepulchres of the house of David remain unmoved and untouched (Neziqin, Baba Batra 1:11).
Archaeology of Kings
The discovery of numerous artifacts such as these is continually shedding light on the biblical kingly history—and they have only validated the biblical account. Nothing has been found to prove the biblical account wrong. The sum total of evidence for the biblical kings is surprisingly immense. The following are kings of Judah and Israel whose existence has been proved conclusively through archaeology (taken from Lawrence Mykytiuk’s stringent analysis in 53 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically):
Kings of Judah: David, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Jehoiachin
Kings of Israel: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Joash, Jeroboam ii , Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea
Add to that nine other biblically named high-ranking Israelite and Judahite officials, and 25 other biblically named kings of foreign powers that have now been proved to exist through archaeology. And then their officials as well. And the cities they governed. The evidence is remarkable.
The Royal Question on Which the Entire Bible Hangs
Evidence of the kings of Judah, specifically, is very important—and not just from a historical standpoint. Archaeological proof of their existence is simply not enough. There is another key component, specifically to do with the kings of Judah, that either proves the Bible as the true, authoritative Word of God or proves the Bible to be fanciful myth. That component has to do with a key promise God made to King David for his obedience. 2 Samuel 7:16 states:
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
God absolutely promised that David’s kingly line would continue forever (see also Jeremiah 33:17). He said that this promise was just as sure as day and night (Jeremiah 33:20-21). God cannot lie (e.g., Numbers 23:19). Thus, if there is no longer someone reigning on the throne of David to this very day, then God is a liar! The Bible could be discarded as theological myth.
If, however, there is somehow someone still on such a throne, then this would prove the inerrancy of God’s Word and the accuracy of His prophecies.
But wasn’t King Zedekiah the last king on David’s throne, before the Babylonians came and sacked Jerusalem c. 586 b.c.e .? They killed all his sons and led Zedekiah away to die in captivity. Wasn’t that the catastrophic end to King David’s throne?
This line of reasoning led such people as Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll to lose faith in the Bible—because they believed God’s unconditional promises were not kept. The question is critical, and the Bible stands or falls upon it. Is there still a king on the throne of David?
Our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, written by Herbert W. Armstrong, tackles this very question with detailed historical and prophetic analysis. The conclusions, and what they mean for our major countries today—particularly Israel, the United States, and the British Commonwealth—are astounding. Well over 5 million people have received this book request a free copy (or read the book online) here, to prove the answer for yourself. I’ve read it several times—for me, the book is revolutionary.
Iran Stele&mdasha Warning to Biblical Samaria
E arly in the eighth century b.c.e. , the nation of Assyria was weak politically and militarily. It was under the dominion of its northern neighbor, Urartu. When a weak king came to power in Urartu in 746–745 b.c.e ., Assyria rebelled and a new ruler emerged. Pulu (or Pul) assumed the name Tiglath-Pileser iii after one of Assyria’s greatest kings. Tiglath was the governor in Nimrud, and although he was not from the royal line, he was of royal blood.
Tiglath is the king mentioned in 2 Kings 15, to whom a king of Israel paid tribute. How did Tiglath-Pileser iii transform Assyria from a group of fractured provinces into a mighty empire?
Due to the fragmented condition of the Assyrian nation, Tiglath-Pileser first reorganized the government to ensure that there would not be another coup. He consolidated power unto himself and restricted the power of the local rulers. Assyria had 12 provinces, but the new king further divided the land into 25 provinces, making it easier for him to control and maintain the government.
Tiglath-Pileser also restructured the military. Instead of compulsory enlistment, Tiglath required a small levy of soldiers from each province to be professionally trained year-round. This effectively created the world’s first professional army.
Now that Tiglath had settled things at home, he set out to use his new professional army. First he moved east and then north against Babylon and the Medes, bringing them under Assyrian rule. Next, he looked westward toward Syria. When he went to Arpad, he received tribute from nearby kings. One of those kings was Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:16-22) and another was King Rezin of Syria (2 Kings 16:5-9).
This tribute was recorded on the Stele of Tiglath-Pileser iii , or the Iran Stele. The exact time and place of its discovery are unknown, but it is believed that the stele was found in western Iran. It probably wasn’t long after its discovery that it first came to the attention of Luis Levine in 1967.
Tiglath-Pileser had two main campaigns: the first in 744 b.c.e. and the second in 737 b.c.e . This stele is from the second campaign.
The stele reads: “I received from … Rezin of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre … gold, silver ….” This inscription squares perfectly with the biblical account in 2 Kings 15. “And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that this hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand” (verse 19). A king was doing evil in the sight of the Lord (verse 18) and along came Assyria as a warning of what was to come for the northern tribes of Israel. Menahem sent Tiglath, or Pul, this tribute hoping to keep him at bay. The latter half of verse 20 reads: “So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.” This, too, is recorded in the Iran Stele. Tiglath wrote: “[T]he place of Samaria only did I leave their king.”
This tribute to Tiglath-Pileser was only a temporary solution it wasn’t long until Assyria came marching back for more.
The Iran Stele provides secular evidence proving the biblical record of this ancient Israelite king’s existence and of his paying tribute to Assyria.
The name "Assyria" is the Greek form of the native "Asshur," the city on the west of the Tigris, near its confluence with the Lower Zab, from which the kingdom, and finally the empire, of Assyria was named. Assyria's relations to the people of Israel are of chief concern in this article yet a brief statement is necessary regarding its position among the nations of the ancient East, in whose history it is such an important factor.
After the city of Asshur had been founded at an unknown early date, perhaps by colonists from Babylonia, the settlement gradually spread till it extended to the mountains of Kurdistan forming the historical eastern boundary of the kingdom, which stretched along both sides of the Tigris. During the long period when Babylonia controlled the whole of the region from the Persian gulf to the Mediterranean sea, Assyria was its dependent. But about the sixteenth century B.C. it rose into independence as a rival of Babylonia and thenceforth Syria and Palestine were left free from the aggressions of either power. Thus Egypt was given opportunity to secure a footing in Asia, which she maintained for the greater part of three centuries, though toward the end of the fourteenth century she had to relinquish Syria to the Hittites. At length the dominion of both Egyptians and Hittites in western Asia was ended, partly through invasion from the northern coastlands of the Mediterranean but, on account of mutual hostility, neither Assyria nor Babylonia was in a position to occupy the country. In consequence, the Arameans "from over the river" made a permanent settlement in Syria and the Hebrews, having escaped from Egypt, reclaimed their old tribal seats in Palestine, and at last became masters of most of the Canaanite territory. After the settlement, Israel was not disturbed by any power greater than the small countries of the neighborhood, whose attacks mark the period of the Judges. Thus arose the possibility of the Hebrew monarchy, as well as of the powerful Aramean kingdom of Damascus. But the subjection of Syria and Palestine to an Eastern power was only a question of time. From about 1100 B.C. Assyria's superiority became evident, and for nearly five centuries Babylonia ceased to be a power in Asia. Assyria, however, was not in a position to subdue Syria completely till the middle of the ninth century and then the conquest was not permanent. Palestine proper was not invaded till 738 B.C. The history of Assyria may accordingly be treated for the present purpose under the following periods: A. To 1500 B.C. , period of quiescence. B. To 745, period of extension. C. To 607, period of supremacy. The first period was of no significance for Israel the second was of much direct importance the third was of supreme importance, direct and indirect. This division should be supplemented by one having special regard to the history of Israel, as that history was affected by the policy of Assyria, and dealing only with the latter part of B and with C. These divisions are: (1) Epoch of the Syrian wars (2) decline and fall of the northern kingdom (3) vassalage of the kingdom of Judah.
(1) a. Ahab, son of Omri, while usually subject to Damascus, gains some relief through an Assyrian invasion under Shalmaneser II. about 854 B.C. , which causes a temporary league among the western states, Ahab and Ben-hadad II. of Damascus fighting side by side against the invader. b. Jehu, the usurper, submits to Assyrian suzerainty about 842, but gains only a brief advantage for Assyria, which has been pressing Damascus, after 839 retires for a time, and gives Hazael of that kingdom opportunity to ravage most of Palestine. c. Joash of Samaria (799) is successful against Damascus because the Assyrians have reappeared. They take Damascus in 797, and receive the homage of Phenicians, Philistines, and northern Israel. d. The prostration of Damascus is followed by the quiescence of Assyria for forty years, during which time both Israel and Judah expand under Jeroboam II. and Uzziah.
(2) a. Tiglath-pileser III. (Pul) reorganizes the Assyrian empire, and carries out the policy of progressive reduction of western Asia. Subject states are spared complete extinction only on condition of submitting to severe terms of probation to test their fidelity to Assyria's rule. Northern and middle Syria are annexed (743-738 B.C. ). Uzziah of Judah, their ally, is humbled while Menahem of Israel buys off Tiglath-pileser with a heavy price. In 734 Ahaz seeks help from Tiglath-pileser against Samaria and Damascus, and becomes an Assyrian vassal. Galilee is annexed and some of its people are deported. Pekah of Samaria is dethroned and slain in 733, and Hosea is made vassal king. Damascus is taken in 732. b. Hosea, instigated by Egypt, now under the Ethiopic dynasty, rebels in 724 against Shalmaneser IV. of Assyria. Sargon II., who comes to the throne at the end of 722, takes Samaria and deports 27,290 of the people to Mesopotamia and Media.
(3) a. Sargon II. (722-705 B.C. ) consolidates the Assyrian power. In 711, when Ashdod revolts (Isa. xx.), Judah is threatened for intriguing with Egyptand the Philistines. b. The policy of Hezekiah (719-690) is to treat with Egypt and assist in a general combination against Assyria after the accession of Sennacherib (705-681). In 701 Sennacherib invades Palestine, devastates Judah, and deports many people, but is diverted from the siege of Jerusalem by a plague in his army, so that he leaves Palestine and does not return. c. Esarhaddon, the best of the Assyrian kings (681-668), conquers Egypt. It rebels and is reconquered by Assurbanipal (668-626), but regains its freedom about 645. Judah and the West generally remain quiescent. In 650 a great revolt against Assyria rages from Elam to the Mediterranean, in which Manasseh of Judah joins (according to II Chron. xxxiii. 10-13), and is made captive for a time. d. Assyria declines rapidly. Cimmerians and Scythians invade the empire.
The Medians, assisted by the Chaldeans, finally destroy Nineveh and divide the empire between them. Before the catastrophe, Pharaoh Necho II. of Egypt invades Syria. Josiah of Judah (639-608), who proceeds against him, is slain at Megiddo.
The official and to some extent the popular religion of Judah was greatly affected by Assyrian influence, especially under Ahaz and Manasseh.
Assyria occupies a prominent place both in the historical and in the prophetical literature of the Old Testament. The narrators were well informed as to the Assyrian events to which they refer and are most discerning and explicit in regard to occasions on which the religion of Israel was influenced by Assyria, as in the innovations introduced by Ahaz and Manasseh (II Kings xvi. 18 xxiii. 11, 12), or when a great deliverance was wrought, as under Hezekiah (II Kings xviii., xix.), or when Israel's independence or actual existence was imperiled (II Kings xv. 29, xvii.). Since the historians wrote under the influence of the view of Hebrew history taken by the Prophets, Assyria is regarded by them from the prophetic point of view. But the Hebrew narrative is usually so objective that any higher purpose involved in the part played by the Assyrians is not specially indicated, except in the general statement with regard to the guilt of Samaria (II Kings xvii. 7 et seq.).
The Prophets, on the other hand, are international, or rather world-wide, seers, and connect all events as they occur with the controlling divine purpose. In their theory of affairs, while Israel as the chosen people was always the special object of the Lord's care and interest, the other nations are not beyond His regard and their political and military movements which concern the weal of Israel are made to subserve His purpose and the establishment of His kingdom. This general conception explains the watchfulness with which the Prophets viewed the gradual advance of the Assyrian empire to the secure possession of Syria and Palestine. Indeed, it may be said that in a certain sense the Assyrian policy occasioned Hebrew written prophecy.
Amos, the first of the literary prophets who proclaimed the active sovereignty of the Lord over the nations of the earth (Amos ix. 7), based his warnings to his people on the ground that God was to raise up against them a nation that would carry them captive beyond Damascus and lay waste their whole country (v. 27, vi. 14) indicating that the Assyrians were to take the place in the discipline of Israel formerly held by the Arameans of Damascus, and to outdo them in the work of punishment. This attitude toward Israel with its threat of a national catastrophe was consistently maintained by succeeding prophets until the end of the Assyrian empire.
As political complications increased, the Prophets were led to play not merely a theoretical but a practical part. In their capacity as political mentors they rebuked their people for intriguing with Assyria (Hosea v. 13, viii. 9), and foretold the consequence (viii. 10 ix. 3, 17 x. 5 et seq.). They thus assumed a twofold attitude toward the great Assyrian problem. On the one hand, it was necessary to warn their people against entanglement with Assyria, because (1) it would only result more surely in their absorption by the stronger power, and (2) it would bring Israel under religious as well as political subjection to the suzerain power. On the other hand, it was equally necessary to point out the inevitable loss of home and country at the hands of the Assyrian invaders. When the prophetic lessons had been thrown away upon northern Israel, and Samaria had become an Assyrian province, the admonition was impressed more strongly than ever upon the kingdom of Judah (Micah i. Isa. xxviii.). When, under Tiglath-pileser I., Sargon, and Sennacherib, Judah, after the first false step of Ahaz (II Kings xvi. 7), became bound hand and foot to Assyria, and her end seemed near, it was the task of Isaiah to show how these antithetic points of view were reconciled in the great doctrine of God's justice supreme overall. That is to say, divine justice was bringing Israel under the Assyrian rod, and would finally call the oppressor himself to account when his allotted work should be done (Isa. x. 5 et seq.).
The scourging of Judah and Jerusalem by Sennacherib, and the retreat of his plague-stricken army (II Kings xviii., xix.), were partial demonstration of the truth of the prophetic word, which was fully vindicated at last by the destruction of Nineveh and the fall of Assyria (Nahum). See the articles Assyriology and the Old Testament Archeology, Biblical.