Posted by: Randall Niles | August 17, 2011

Sir Henry Layard – Archaeology, Past and Present

Sir Austen Henry Layard was born in Paris in 1817. He belonged to a family of doctors, bankers and diplomats, and was educated in the top schools of England, France, Italy and Switzerland. He loved the study of languages and fine arts, and served as a lawyer-apprentice for six years. Upon entering his 20’s, Layard was totally groomed for aristocratic success.

In 1839, Layard determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and return to Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) to serve in the British civil service. Layard’s family had served as diplomats in Ceylon for generations. However, rather than travel by standard aristocratic means, Layard decided to walk from England to Ceylon by way of Asia. He was 22.

Once he embarked on his trek, Layard’s life journey took a totally different track. He never made it to Ceylon. Instead, he spent years wandering about Persia and Turkey, fascinated by the local cultures and ancient Assyrian ruins. Ultimately, he was responsible for rediscovering the ancient ruins of Nineveh in 1847, including the lost palace of Sennacherib. He also stumbled into the famous library of Ashurbanipal, which contained 22,000 clay texts, including important finds such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Remarkably, since the fiery fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, many of the huge walls and relief sculptures of Sennacherib’s throne room were still preserved under the desert sands. And right there, inscribed in cuneiform on the massive doorway, was Sennacherib’s own account of his siege of Jerusalem.

Layard’s discovery was stunning! The mid-19th century was a time of religious skepticism and biblical revisionism in Europe. Now, the world had new and compelling evidence for a biblical event. Layard’s journeys and exploits continued throughout his life, including more biblical discoveries from the ancient Assyrian ruins. In 1866, Layard became a trustee of the British Museum, where he published a number of books and articles about his phenomenal adventures into the past.

Check out More Fascinating Archaeology Now!

In the news this week: A 2,000-year-old golden bell was found among the ruins of the City of David in Jerusalem. The tiny bell has been traced to the priesthood of the Second Temple period in Israel. “Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe.” (Exodus 28:33-34) Awesome — CLICK HERE to read more!

Some things to Think About,

Randall Niles



  1. how can one past reshape the presen?

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