Thirty kilometers from the Iraqi city of Mosul is the small Arab village of Nimrud. Here, under the piles of gray earth, are buried the ruins of one of the capitals of Assyria - Kalah (Kalha).

Thirty kilometers from the Iraqi city of Mosul is the small Arab village of Nimrud

In 1839, near the village of Nimrud, on the deserted banks of the Tigris, appeared the 23-year-old English scientist and traveler Austin Henry Layard (1817-1894). Among the many hills far on the horizon, Layard noticed a particularly high pyramidal mountain that rises above a deserted plain. Where the rains washed away the slopes of the mountain, the remains of the walls protruded from the ground. What is this ruin?

Layard was very interested in the biblical name of the nearby village - Nimrud. Nimrod or Nimrud was the great-grandson of the legendary Noah. Layard remembered well that the Bible, at that time virtually the only source on the history of the Near East, directly linked the name of Nimrud to the ancient capitals of Assyria.

The Arabic oral tradition attributed to Nimrud the basis of the local settlement on the outskirts of which a huge hill rose. The Arabs called him Kalah-Shergat. "Kalah"... Is not this the Kalah that is mentioned in the Bible?

Starting to dig on the hill Nimrud, after 24 hours Layard came across the walls of two Assyrian palaces. The first of what the archaeologists discovered was several vertically placed stone slabs. It turned out that this is the facing of the walls of some room, which, judging by the richness of the decor, could only be the royal palace. Layard sent three people to dig from the opposite side of the Nimrud hill, and here again the archeologist's backstage came across a wall that turned out to be the corner of the second palace. It was covered with magnificent reliefs, among which one stood out, depicting the Assyrian king.

Then, years later, on the Nimrud hill, many such bas-reliefs were found, now adorning the museums of Iraq, Europe and America. They are surprisingly realistic in their content, and their careful study provides an opportunity to look into the lives of those people, and especially those Assyrian rulers, about which a century and a half ago it was known only from the Bible.

One day, from the thickness of the earth in Nimrud, the almost gorgeous alabaster head of the winged man-lion almost untouched by time.

Today we know that it was one of the many statues of the main Assyrian gods. There were four of them: Marduk, who was portrayed as a winged bull, Naboo - he was portrayed as a winged man, Nergal the winged lion and Ninurta, portrayed as an eagle. These winged human lions awe inspiring, they were created to edify generations of people who lived three millennia before us.

Works on the hill Nimrud lasted three years. Layard managed to rescue from the nonexistence of the capital of the ancient Assyrian kingdom, in the center of which once stood the palace of the king Ashshurnasirapal the Second (883-859 BC). It was this king who moved the capital of Assyria from ancient Ashur here to Kalah.

The palace of Ashshurnasirapal, built in the 9th century BC, was grandiose. He had a large square courtyard, around which were the main, residential and utility rooms. The walls of many of them were covered with reliefs depicting the military feats of the tsar, hunting, royal receptions. These reliefs are characterized by literally protocol accuracy in the transmission of events, simplicity of compositions, clarity of contours. The entrance to the palace was guarded by figures of shed - fantastic creatures with the body of a bull, the wings of a bird and the face of a man.

In the spring of 1848, the palace of Ashurnasrapapala on the hill of Nimrud was almost completely liberated from the ground. Shortly before his departure, Layard went around him completely and left us his impressions of this magnificent structure: "We'll descend through the roughly trenched steps in the main trench, twenty steps into the depths - and we are between two winged man-lions forming the portal, we enter the main hall, leaving only ruins, but on both sides there are gigantic winged figures, one with the heads of an eagle, others - created in the human likeness. In their hands they have some enigmatic symbolic objects. one portal that also forms winged lions, behind this portal there is a man's winged figure and two plates with bas-reliefs, so spoiled that it is almost impossible to make out what is depicted on them. Still further, probably there was a wall, but now from it nothing is left. With a further hundred steps on the hill of Nimrud, we are approaching the passage guarded by two giant winged man-bulls of yellow limestone".

The ruins of Kalach on the hill of Nimrud, excavated in 1845-1848. Layard and today make a lasting impression. From a distance of about ten meters, you can glimpse the entire facade of the palace of Ashurnasirapala, with two portals leading to the throne room. They are guarded by statues of the gods Marduk and Nergal. The sculpture of Marduk in the form of a winged bull-man is made of grayish-green with white impregnations of limestone, brought, apparently, from the upper reaches of the Tigris. Clearly visible belly, covered with snake scales, powerful legs and the human head of the chief god of Assyria. The large nose is softly outlined, the straight beard is braided in pigtails, the mustache is twisted. In some places a cracked sculpture is held together by metal braces. Two figures of the god Nergal, a winged lion with a human face, are made of the same material, but smaller in size.

At the eastern, better preserved portal on the hill of Nimrud there is a stone slab with a bas-relief of the third Assyrian god - Naboo. He is portrayed in the form of a man with a fierce face: a hooked nose hangs over tightly closed lips, frozen in an evil grin, eyebrows are frowning, a long, key-reminiscent earring is attached to the earlobe. In his right hand, Naboo holds a pine cone - a symbol of fertility.

Among the bas-reliefs stretching along the facade, one can find the image of the fourth god of the Assyrians, Ninurta. This god, apparently, was the youngest of four: the size of his image as an eagle is only a quarter of the massive figure of Marduk.

Today, many sculptures from the hill of Nimrud adorn the halls of the Iraqi Antiquities Museum in Baghdad. Here is a statue of the god Naboo, carved from yellow sandstone, once towering in the city temple. Here are two statues of King Salmanasar the Third (858-824 BC), son of Ashurnasirapal. With great difficulty, London's British Museum was transported and giant stone sculptures of the throne room, drawn from the hill Nimrud. Here, perhaps, and all the traces of the former splendor, preserved today in Nimrud...