The Taylor Prism of King Sennacherib, Nineveh

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published on 31 March 2014

This prism records the first eight campaigns of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (704-681 BCE).

This six-sided baked clay document (or prism) was discovered at the Assyrian capital Nineveh, in an area known today as Nebi Yunus. It was acquired by Colonel R. Taylor, British Consul General at Baghdad, in 1830 CE, after whom it is named. The British Museum purchased it from Taylor's widow in 1855 CE.

As one of the first major Assyrian documents found, this document played an important part in the decipherment of the cuneiform script.

The prism is a foundation record, intended to preserve King Sennacherib's achievements for posterity and the gods. The record of his account of his third campaign (701 BCE) is particularly interesting to scholars. It involved the destruction of forty-six cities of the state of Judah and the deportation of 200,150 people. Hezekiah, king of Judah, is said to have sent tribute to Sennacherib. This event is described from another point of view in the Old Testament books of 2 Kings and Isaiah. Interestingly, the text on the prism makes no mention of the siege of Lachish which took place during the same campaign and is illustrated in a series of panels from Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh.

Neo-Assyrian era, 691 BCE, From Nineveh, Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London)


About the Author

Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)
A consultant neurologist and lover of the Cradle of Civilization, Mesopotamia.

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