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"Standard Inscription" Of Ashurnasirpal II

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"Standard Inscription" Of Ashurnasirpal II

9th - 8th Century B.C.
H: 6.3 x W: 10.3 cm 



Located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, Ninevah was one of the most important cities in antiquity, the capital and largest city of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, as well as the largest city in the world for several decades, and the centre of worship for the deity Ishtar. The Southwest Palace of Nineveh, where this fragment is thought to originate, was first laid out by Sennacherib (r. 705-681 BC). It was a showcase of wealth and art, comprising 80 rooms and decorated with sculptural reliefs. It became standard practice for Assyrian kings to record their military campaigns with large-scale sculptural reliefs, filling their palaces with evidence of their prowess, as well as with courtly hunting scenes and divine protective imagery. Many cuneiform tablets have been found there, and this fragment most likely comes from a larger relief with a large script. Ashurnasirpal II (r. 884-859 BC) was the third king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and was one of the most ambitious, ruthless and magnificent of all the Assyrian kings. His many successful military campaigns brought him great wealth, and he set about renovating the earlier palaces of his empire, including that of Sennacherib at Nineveh. He founded a new capital city at Nimrud and there he created the Standard Inscription. The Standard Inscription is not an object, but rather a single, standardised cuneiform text written in Akkadian, which was carved out many times in celebration of Ashurnasirpal's accomplishments. Taken from a larger gypsum wall carving, the present fragment consists of 5 partial lines from the inscription, thought to read ‘With the help of Assur my Lord … to all the people’. The complete inscription ran to 22 lines of script altogether. The first five lines assert the king's credentials: “Palace of Assurnasirpal, vice-regent of Aššur, chosen one of the gods Enlil and Ninurta, beloved of the gods Anu and Dagan, destructive weapon of the great gods, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta, great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Adad-nerari, great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria; valiant man who acts with the support of Aššur, his lord, and has no rival among the princes of the four quarters, marvellous shepherd, fearless in battle, unopposable mighty floodtide, king who subdues those insubordinate to him, he who rules all peoples, strong male who treads upon the necks of his foes, trampler of all enemies, he who smashes the forces of the rebellious, king who acts with the support of the great gods, his lords, and has conquered all lands, gained dominion over all the highlands and received their tribute, capturer of hostages, he who is victorious over all countries...” The next nine lines report the extent of his victories, stretching from Mount Lebanon in the west to Armenia in the east, and encroaching south into Babylonian territory. The last eight lines tell how he rebuilt the city of Kalhu (and made it his capital), and settled it with people from his newly conquered territories. He built a great palace, decorated with the finest woods and metals, and stone statues of the beasts of the mountains and the seas; then he filled it with treasure. Half of the known extant carvings of the Standard Inscription are from Nimrud, but other, mostly smaller fragments such as the present one, have been found at Ashurnasirpal’s other building projects, including the Southwest Palace of Nineveh.


David Aaron Ltd, 2022, No. 16.


From the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, northern Iraq.
Probably sent to England by Captain Anthony Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910) prior to 1910 (based on old collection handwritten label).
Previously in the Private collection of Alfred Theodore Arber-Cooke (1905-1993), most likely acquired in the early 20th century.
Thence by descent to his cousin (a retired engineer and the sole executor of Alfred’s estate) in 1993.
ALR: S00209079, With IADAA certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.

Note on the Provenance

Captain Anthony Hormuzd Rassam (1826-1910) was born in Mosul, Modern day Iraq, on the bank of the River Tigris opposite the ancient site of Nineveh. Educated in England, in 1869 he married Anne Eliza, the oldest daughter of Captain Spencer Cosby Price.

His brother was British Vice-Consul in Mosul, which enabled him to gain work with the British excavations at Nineveh in 1845, he became an integral member of Layard’s research team, and when Layard returned to England in 1847, Rassam joined him to complete his studies at Magdalen College, Oxford. Later, in 1849, he was instructed by the trustees of the British Museum to return to Nineveh with Layard in order to assist him and ultimately succeed him in the task. During this time, he discovered a number of important archaeological finds, including the clay tablets that contained the Epic of Gilgamesh. In 1854, he travelled to Abyssinia on a diplomatic mission, where he was imprisoned and kept in chains for nearly two years. After release, he continued his explorations of Assyrian sites from 1866 to 1882. In Assyria his chief finds were the Ashurnasirpal temple in Nimrud (Calah), the cylinder of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, and two of the unique and historically important bronze strips from the Balawat Gates.

Alfred Theodore Arber-Cooke (1905-1993) was an antiquarian and avid collector of Antiquities and Asian works of art, principally collecting from the 1930s to the 1970s. He initially lived in Wimbledon, Greater London and was involved with local archaeological digs undertaken by the Surrey Archaeological Society. He wrote the book 'Old Wimbledon', with a foreword the MP Sir Arthur Fell, published in 1927. He later moved to Llandovery in Carmarthenshire, Wales, again involved with local archaeology and wrote the History of Llandovery, published in 1975.

When Alfred Theodore Arber-Cooke (1905-1993) estate was inherited by his cousin, there were several boxes filled with objects and fragments, many of which with old Victorian collection labels such as the below which act as further proof of the early nature of his collection.