Arts, Culture & Media

Ancient art from Iraq

Follow the Tigris River in the Geo Quiz. It's one of the world's great rivers. It flows through Baghdad, then joins up with the Euphrates before emptying into the Persian Gulf.

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We're traveling upstream of Baghdad. The northern Iraqi city we're looking for is on the banks of the Tigris. It's in the province of Ninawa. The ancient city is 20 miles or so southeast of the city of Mosul.

3,000 years ago there was magnificent palace built here by the Assyrian King and he was way "into" carved ivory.

"It's all elephant ivory, and it's actually African elephants. I think, it was exported from Egypt to Lebanon in antiquity and then carved in workshops in Phoenicia, in Lebanon and then brought from there to Assyria".

About 20,000 pieces of this ornate ivory were discovered back in the 1940"²s. Among the archaeologists who helped unearth the miniature carvings was the mystery writer Agatha Christie. Here's an excerpt from her autobiography describing the scene:

"Oh, what a beautiful spot it was. The Tigris was just a mile away, and on the great mound of the Acropolis, big stone Assyrian heads poked out of the soil. I had my own favourite tools, an orange stick, possibly a very fine knitting needle and a jar of cosmetic face cream, for gently coaxing the dirt out of the crevices without harming the friable ivory".

Do you know what city we're looking for?

Geo Answer:

The answer is the northern Iraqi city of Nimrud. A unique collection of 3,000 year old ivory carvings excavated from this ancient city goes on exhibit starting next week at the British Museum. Anchor Marco Werman gets details from the British Museum's Middle East expert John Curtis.

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