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Assyrian furniture



The discoveries which have been made in the oldest seat of monarchical government in the world, by such enterprising travellers as Sir Austin Layard, Mr. George Smith, and others who have thrown so much light upon domestic life in Nineveh, are full of interest in connection with this branch of the subject. We learn from these authorities that the furniture was ornamented with the heads of lions, bulls, and rams; tables, thrones, and couches were made of metal and wood, and probably inlaid with ivory; the earliest chair, according to Sir Austin Layard, having been made without a back, and the legs terminating in lion's feet or bull's hoofs. Some were of gold, others of silver and bronze. On the monuments of Khorsabad, representations have been discovered of chairs supported by animals, and by human figures, probably those of prisoners. In the British Museum is a bronze throne, found by Sir A. Layard amidst the ruins of Nimrod's Palace, which shews ability of high order for skilled metal work.

Mr. Smith, the famous Assyrian excavator and translator of cuniform inscriptions, has told us in his "Assyrian Antiquities" of his finding close to the site of Nineveh, portions of a crystal throne somewhat similar in design to the bronze one mentioned above, and in another part of this interesting book we have a description of an interior that is useful in assisting us to form an idea of the condition of houses of a date which can be correctly assigned to b.c. 860:—"Altogether in this place I opened six chambers, all of the same character, the entrances ornamented by clusters of square pilasters, and recesses in the rooms in the same style; the walls were colored in horizontal bands of red, green, and yellow, and where the lower parts of the chambers were panelled with small stone slabs, the plaster and colours were continued over these." Then follows a description of the drainage arrangements, and finally we have Mr. Smith's conclusion that this was a private dwelling for the wives and families of kings, together with the fact that on the other side of the bricks he found the legend of Shalmeneser II. (b.c. 860), who probably built this palace.

In the British Museum is an elaborate piece of carved ivory, with depressions to hold colored glass, etc., from Nineveh, which once formed part of the inlaid ornament of a throne, shewing how richly such objects were ornamented. This carving is said by the authorities to be of Egyptian origin. The treatment of figures by the Assyrians was more clumsy and more rigid, and their furniture generally was more massive than that of the Egyptians.

An ornament often introduced into the designs of thrones and chairs is a conventional treatment of the tree sacred to Asshur, the Assyrian Jupiter; the pine cone, another sacred emblem, is also found, sometimes as in the illustration of the Khorsabad chair, forming an ornamental foot, and sometimes being part of the merely decorative design.

The bronze throne, appears to have been of sufficient height to require a footstool, and in "Nineveh and its Remains" these footstools are specially alluded to. "The feet were ornamented, like those of the chair, with the feet of lions or the hoofs of bulls."

The furniture represented in the following illustration, from a bas-relief in the British Museum, is said to be of a period some two hundred years later than the bronze throne and footstool.





















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