Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Biblical Archaeology #2 - The Black Obelisk

A depiction of King Jehu of Israel prostrating himself before King Shalmaneser III of Assyria
The Black Obelisk of King Shalmaneser III of Assyria (reigned 859-824 BCE) is a black limestone Neo-Assyrian bas-relief sculpture, the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered.  It has been dated to 825 BCE.  It lists Shalmaneser's military campaigns of 31 years, and glorifies his achievements.

The obelisk depicts five subdued kings, bringing tributes to Shalmaneser III and prostrating themselves before him.  One of the kings is Jehu of Israel (reigned circa 842-815 BCE).  The depiction of Jehu prostrating himself before Shalmeneser III is the earliest depiction of an Israelite yet discovered, and confirms the existence of Kings Omri and Jehu of Israel.

The caption above the picture, 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."

In the Bible, King Jehu's reign is described in 2 Kings 9-10. 

The Black Obelisk was discovered by archaeologist Henry Layard in 1846, during his excavations of the site of Kalhu, the ancient Assyrian capital.  It is now housed at the British Museum in London.