Parrot: It is necessary to see in order to understand

When I began to learn of and appreciate the work of André Parrot, Curator-in-Chief of the French National Museums, Professor at the School of the Louvre, and Director of the Mari Archaeological Expedition, I purchased most of those masterful little books he wrote about Biblical cities. In connection with the recent post about Nineveh I took down my well-marked copy of Nineveh and the Old Testament (1955) and began to read again.

André Parrot writes of his April 1950 arrival at Mosul.

During the twenty years spent in Iraq or in Syria, we had never had an opportunity to cross the ‘Assyrian triangle’ Once again we realized how necessary it is to see in order to understand, and especially to hold in the memory. Knowledge gained from books is certainly not enough, for names which are not attached to any reality are nothing more than ghosts. Ghosts of cities, shadows of men, vague floating shapes, without solidity, though one tries to capture it with the aid of a drawing, a photograph or a vivid description. All students of archaeology know this by experience: nothing can replace actual contact with the object. That is why museums are so important; because there one can recognize the long chain of human history stretching out continuously from its beginning, but in which, instinctively we have a special interest in detecting and observing the first links. But the object is a prisoner in its glass case. Tom from its natural surroundings it has lost its true speech. Nevertheless it exerts a pull, it beckons one to take the road. It is impossible to contemplate the Assyrian reliefs in the Louvre or the British Museum without calling up the image of Nineveh.

Parrot points out that a visit to Nineveh can be disappointing “if one expects to see murals or palaces.” These things, he says, have been destroyed or crumbled away.

No kingdom endures forever, as the prophet Daniel reminded us long ago. Parrot says that he had only four days to visit the Assyrian Triangle (Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Asshur). In the evenings during his visit, he stayed with the Dominican Fathers. He says his memory of Nineveh,

is bound up with that of Mosul and the white cell in the monastery where, every evening of that short stay, we were able to meditate only a few yards from the Assyrian capital, on the vanity of empires and the fate which awaits all of them.

For the same reasons I have spent many years encouraging Bible students to visit the Bible lands.

The British Museum displays many reliefs from Nineveh. Information posted with the relief below says that it dates to about 700-692 BC. It comes from the SW Palace, Rm. 14, panels 13-15. After the capture of Alammu, a town of uncertain location, the prisoners are brough before the Assyrian king. Some carry heads of the dead. The king, Sennacherib, was shown in his chariot, but this part is now lost (WA 124786-7). Click on the photo for a larger image.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This Assyrian relief from Nineveh shows Prisoners from the town of Alammu. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

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