Other Worlds

Apologies to my faithful photography friends who this week find themselves sharing the weekly photography blog with friends who come along to my Old Testament lectures.

The Assyrian exhibition at the British Museum, due to end on 24th February, is terrific. The Neo Assyrian Empire 900 – 600 BCE which covered Iraq, Syria, parts of modern Iran and in the west land as far as Egypt, was ruled over by a series of pretty vicious kings such as Shalmaneser III and Tiglath Pileser III. However just before the empire was pounded into dust by a mixture of Babylonians and Medes there was one king Ashurbanipal was as much a scholar as a thug.

It is the archaeological remains of Ashurbanipal’s reign from 669 – 631 BCE that the exhibition covers and more particularly excavations at the ancient site of Nineveh. Nineveh is better known to most people as Mosul in Northern Iraq. Sadly the site was occupied by Islamic State fighters from 2010 – 2017 and they did considerable damage to the ancient ruins – although it has to be said that the Babylonians did more damage in 612 BCE when they sacked the place.

Biblical scholars will know Nineveh as the place where Jonah (he of the whale fame) is supposed to have visited; and also as the target of the rather caustic book of Nahum in the Old Testament.

To photograph in the exhibition was quite a challenge. Everything had to be hand held on a ISO of 6000 and beyond because of the subdued lighting, but the artefacts are impressive. The pictures as a result are a bit blurry (who said “so what’s new?”.

I was interested to see clay tablets from the uncovered remains of Ashurbanipal’s library. Small clay tablets written in Akkadian Cuneiform – wedge shaped writing 𒌷𒉌𒉡𒀀 like that. The library yielded tablets on which was written the Epic of Gilgamesh. This massive work was originally composed almost 1000 years earlier, but it contains a parallel legend to one of the accounts of the flood found in the Biblical Genesis.

Letters and notes on clay tablets written in Cuneiform

Well that was my cultural treat last week. It’s back to cutting up bits of cardboard for me this weekend. By the way my lecture on the Minor Prophets called “It’s quicker by whale” is being repeated with updates on February 23rd at Norwich Cathedral Library.

Badly lit written tablet – language Akkadian cuneiform

Stay warm and stay safe.