Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III is a black limestone Assyrian sculpture with many scenes in bas-relief and inscriptions. It comes from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), in northern Iraq, and commemorates the deeds of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC). It is on display at the British Museum in London, and several other museums have cast replicas.
It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it is thought to display the earliest ancient depiction of a biblical figure - Jehu, King of Israel. The traditional identification of "Yaw" as Jehu has been questioned by some scholars, who proposed that the inscription refers to another king, Jehoram of Israel.[1][2] Its reference to 'Parsua' is also the first known reference to the Persians.
Tribute offerings are shown being brought from identifiable regions and peoples. It was erected as a public monument in 825 BC at a time of civil war, in the central square of Nimrud, close to the much earlier White Obelisk of Ashurnasirpal I. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 and is now in the British Museum.

It features twenty relief scenes, five on each side. They depict five different subdued kings, bringing tribute and prostrating before the Assyrian king. From top to bottom they are: (1) Sua of Gilzanu (in north-west Iran), (2) "Jehu of Bit Omri" (Jehu of the House of Omri), (3) an unnamed ruler of Musri (probably Egypt), (4) Marduk-apil-usur of Suhi (middle Euphrates, Syria and Iraq), and (5) Qalparunda of Patin (Antakya region of Turkey). Each scene occupies four panels around the monument and is described by a cuneiform scriptabove them.
On the top and the bottom of the reliefs there is a long cuneiform inscription recording the annals of Shalmaneser III. It lists the military campaigns which the king and his commander-in-chief headed every year, until the thirty-first year of reign. Some features might suggest that the work had been commissioned by the commander-in-chief, Dayyan-Assur.

Second Register
The second register from the top is thought to include the earliest surviving picture of a biblical figure. The name appears as mIa-ú-a mar mHu-um-ri-iRawlinson's original translation in 1850 seminal work "On the Inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia" stated: "The second line of offerings are said to have been sent by Yahua, son of Hubiri, a prince of whom there is no mention in the annals, and of whose native country, therefore, I am ignorant"[3][4] Over a year later, a connection with the bible was made by Reverend Edward Hincks, who wrote in his diary on 21 August 1851: "Thought of an identification of one of the obelisk captives — with Jehu, king of Israel, and satisfying myself on the point wrote a letter to the Athenaeum announcing it".[5] Hincks' letter was published by Athenaeumon the same day, entitled "Nimrud Obelisk".[6] Hincks' identification is now the commonly held position by biblical archaeologists.
The identification of "Yaw" as Jehu was questioned by contemporary scholars such as George Smith[7] as well as in more recent times by P. Kyle McCarter and Edwin R. Thiele,[1][2] based on the fact that Jehu was not an Omride, as well as transliteration and chronology issues. However, the name read as "Yaw, son of Omri (Bit-Khumri", see House of Omri), is generally accepted to follow Hincks as the Biblical Jehu, king of Israel.
The stele describes how Jehu brought or sent his tribute in or around 841 BC.[8] Jehu severed Israel’salliances with Phoenicia and Judah, and became subject to Assyria. The caption above the scene, written in Assyrian cuneiform, can be translated:
“The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears."

Casts and replicas[edit]

Replicas can be found at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois, at Harvard's Semitic Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the ICOR Library in the Semitic Department at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, District of Columbia, in Salem, Oregon, at Corban University's Prewitt/Allen Archaeological Museum, at the Siegfried H. Horn Museum at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI and in the library of the Theological University of the Reformed Churchesin Kampen, the Netherlands.

The Mesha Stele

The Mesha Stele (also known as the "Moabite Stone") is a stele (inscribed stone) set up around 840 BCE by King Mesha of Moab (a kingdom located in modern Jordan). Mesha tells how Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been angry with his people and had allowed them to be subjugated to Israel, but at length Chemosh returned and assisted Mesha to throw off the yoke of Israel and restore the lands of Moab. Mesha describes his many building projects.[1] Some say it is written in the Phoenician alphabet, but others say it is written in the Old Hebrew script, which is closely related.[2]
The stone was discovered intact by Frederick Augustus Klein, an Anglican missionary, at the site of ancient Dibon(now Dhiban, Jordan), in August 1868. Klein was led to it by a local Bedouin, although neither of them could read the text.[3] Before it could be seen by another European, the next year it was smashed by local villagers during a dispute over its ownership. A "squeeze" (a papier-mâché impression) had been obtained by a local Arab on behalf of Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, and fragments containing most of the inscription (613 letters out of about a thousand) were later recovered and pieced together. The squeeze and the reassembled stele are now in the Louvre Museum.[3]
The Mesha stele, the longest Iron Age inscription ever found in the region, constitutes the major evidence for the Moabite language, and is a "corner-stone of Semitic epigraphy,"[4] and history.[5] The stele, whose story parallels, with some differences, an episode in the Bible's Books of Kings (2 Kings 3:4–8), provides invaluable information on the Moabite language and the political relationship between Moab and Israel at one moment in the 9th century BCE.[6] It is the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to the kingdom of Israel (the "House of Omri"); it bears the earliest certain extra-biblical reference to the Israelite god Yahweh, and—if French scholar André Lemaire's reconstruction of a portion of line 31 is correct—the earliest mention of the "House of David" (i.e., the kingdom of Judah).[3] It is also one of four known contemporary inscriptions containing the name of Israel, the others being the Merneptah Stele, the Tel Dan Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith.[7][8][9] Its authenticity has been disputed over the years, and some biblical minimalists suggest the text was not historical, but a biblical allegory, but the stele is regarded as genuine and historical by the vast majority of biblical archaeologists today.[10]
The stele is currently on display in France at the Louvre museum and Jordan has demanded its return.[11]