Archaeology Magazine Archive

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From Baghdad With Gold Volume 55 Number 3, May/June 2002
by Jarrett A. Lobell


Clockwise from top left: a golden diadem found near the skulls of two women, a gold crown found on a child, armlets inlaid with semiprecious stones, and a gold necklace that once graced the neck of an Assyrian royal consort. (By kind permission of the State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, Baghdad) [LARGER IMAGE]

For the first time since before the 1991 Gulf War, Western scholars have been able to marvel first-hand at a spectacular array of 2,800-year-old gold treasures from northern Iraq. Demonstrating that politics does not always stand in the way of scholarship, six Iraqi archaeologists attended a recent conference at the British Museum to discuss the extraordinary Assyrian site of Nimrud and to reveal their most recent discoveries. The treasure, which dates from the ninth to eighth centuries B.C., comes from four or five tombs thought to contain the remains of several consorts of King Ashurnasipal II and includes hundreds of pieces of enameled and engraved gold jewelry, gold bowls and flasks, and a rare electrum mirror. One tomb alone contained over 66 pounds of gold objects. Two of the tombs were actually found in the late 1980s and attracted a great deal of attention then ("Assyrian Gold Treasure," March/April 1990). The contents of the other tombs were generally unknown until the conference.

While the size of the treasure is impressive, the objects are also the first examples of Assyrian metalworking that most scholars have seen. Previous finds have been scant and of low quality, and the political situation in Iraq has prevented Western scholars from studying there, limiting them to examining representations of jewelry and metal objects on the stone reliefs that once decorated the palaces and temples and are now in museums across the world.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America