Assyrian antic site of Dûr-Sharrukin

By Rmn-Grand Palais

Sites éternels, Grand Palais

Sites éternels. Carte de situation du site archéologique de Khorsabad, au nord de l'Irak by Rmn-Grand PalaisOriginal Source: Accès au site de l'exposition de la Rmn-Grand Palais

The city of Dûr-Sharrukin, modern-day Khorsabad, is situated in the north of Iraq, around 15km from Mosul, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Sites éternels. Sargon II (721-705) donnant des instructions à un haut fonctionnaire. by Musée du Louvre, DAO and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientalesOriginal Source: Accès à l'Agence Photo de provenance de l'image


The great Assyrian king Sharrou-ken (The Hebrew transcription of his name is Sargon II) founded his new capital Dûr-Sharrukin, the "fortress of Sargon " (modern-day Khorsabad) around 713 BCE. Although it was built in under ten years, the city was never fully completed.

Indeed, after the king's death in 705 BCE, the city was abandoned by Sennacherib, Sargon II's heir, who preferred to found his own capital in the neighboring city of Nineveh.

Sites éternels. Paul-Emile Botta, orientaliste by Charles-Emile Callande de Champmartin (1797-1883) and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des PeinturesRmn-Grand Palais


The site of Khorsabad was discovered in 1843 by Paul-Emile Botta (1802-1870), the Vice-Consul of France in Mosul.

Plan topographique du monticule de Khorsabad et plan de monument découvert, 1849. (1849) by Paul-Emile Botta (1802-1870) et Eugène Napoléon Flandin (1803-1876) and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientalesRmn-Grand Palais


Over the course of a few weeks, his workers uncovered several rooms. The brick foundations of the walls were protected by slabs of gypsum alabaster sculpted in low relief with cuneiform inscriptions. However, the slabs disintegrated on contact with the air. In order to keep a record of the ruins, Botta obtained an artist from l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (the Academy of inscriptions and letters) to assist him. The orientalist painter Eugène Flandin (1809-1876) arrived in Mosul in May 1844.

Sites éternels. Monuments de Khorsabad : façade N, plan et élévation de la face côté nord-est. (1849) by Botta Paul-Emile (1802-1870) et Flandin Eugène Napoléon (1803-1876) and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientalesOriginal Source: site de l'agence photo Rmn-GP


Eugène Flandin drew up a topographic map of the ruins and created a comprehensive record of the remaining reliefs. Botta himself made impressions and copies of all of the cuneiform transcriptions.

Sites éternels. Les antiquités assyriennes dans la moitié nord de l'aile de la Colonnade, au musée du Louvre (1862) by Charles Maurand (19e siècle) et Régis Augustin (1813-1880)Original Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Gallica


In October 1844, the works on the Khorsabad site were shut down due to lack of funds. Botta then sent the most noteworthy sculptures to France.

They would be exhibited in 1847, in the Louvre, to mark the opening of the Assyrian rooms.

Sites éternels. Khorsabad. Porte ornée n°3, dégagée. Les ouvriers du chantier et leurs contremaîtres. (1853) by Gabriel Tranchand and Collège de France. Archives. Fonds Maurice Pillet (1852-1854)Original Source: Collège de France. Archives


In 1851, The National Assembly voted to fund the continuation of the excavations in Khorsabad. This new archaeological mission was entrusted to Victor Place (1818-1875), who had recently been named Consul in Mosul. He brought the engineer Gabriel Tranchant with him, who took the very first photographs of excavations in the Middle East.

Le Pacha de Mossoul visitant les fouilles de Khorsabad. (1863) by Thomas Félix (1815-1875) and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des peinturesOriginal Source: Agence photo Rmn-GP

In 1853, the architect Félix Thomas spent two months plotting out maps of the site and producing drawings of the palace. In 1863, he used this work to create this canvas representing the city's gate number 3 and the partially buried winged bulls that protected it.
Victor Place's archaeological excavations of the site of Khorsabad ended in 1855. Proceedings were restarted in 1927 by the Oriental Institute of Chicago, continuing until 1934.
In 1957, the Iraqi Department of Antiquities relaunched the project, under the direction of Behnat Abu al-Soof.

Sites éternels. Site archéologique de Khorsabad aujourdhui avec superposition du plan. (2016) by IconemRmn-Grand Palais


It was made up of several rooms around a courtyard. The town and palace together made up the city of Dûr-Sharrukin, which covered a total area of 3km². Its thick, brick walls were covered with large, gypsum alabaster plaques.




The archaeological complex was organized in two parts. The town itself was built on the lower level.


The palace, built on a fortified terrace, overlooked the town.

Sites éternels. Monuments de Dur-Sharrukin (actuel Khorsabad) : façade n, plan et élévation du côté nord-est, 1849 (1849) by Botta Paul-Emile (1802-1870) et Flandin Eugène Napoléon (1803-1876) and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientalesOriginal Source: Agence photo de la Rmn-GP


The city was surrounded by ramparts with seven gates framed by colossal, protective statues: winged bulls with human heads.

Sites éternels. Musée du Louvre, vue de la Cour Khorsabad avec la porte des Taureaux by Anonyme, sous Sargon II, construit de 713 à 705 avant J.-C. and Coll. du musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités orientalesOriginal Source: Agence Photo de la Rmn-GP


Two of these have been preserved in the Louvre museum in Paris. Carved from one block, the bulls of Khorsabad are four meters high and one meter wide.

Sites éternels. Reconstitution numérique 3D d'un des taureaux ailés de Khorsabad. (2016) by IconemOriginal Source: Iconem


The bulls have five legs, so they appear to be resting when viewed face on, and walking when viewed in profile. Between their hind legs, an inscription pays homage to king Sargon II and curses anyone who would dare to harm the city.

Sites éternels. Vue aérienne du site archéologique de Khorsabad aujourdhui. (2016) by IconemOriginal Source: Iconem


Nowadays, Khorsabad is in danger, threatened by looters who take the reliefs to supply the antiquities market. They build tunnels and damage the site. They prevent any possibility of restoring the historical construction of the city or the palace of Sargon II.

In response to this emergency, we can use new technology to precisely map the archaeological remains with the help of drones and scanners. The reconstruction and restoration of the site in 3D allows us to preserve the memory of the buildings of the ancient civilization of Khorsabad for future generations.

The site of Khorsabad (2016)Original Source: Iconem

Credits: Story

We would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the construction of this journey through the "Eternal Sites" and those who have given us valuable time and information as well as permission to reproduce their documentation.

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