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Would you like to hear what a 3000-year old genie has to say?

The Genie of Nimrud. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Museum
Ashurnasirpal II took his palace home decor to a new level

The genie is a type of protective spirit that the ancient Assyrians were rather fond of. This particular variety (and there were many kinds in various postures) depicts a powerfully-built human figure with a pair of wings sprouting from his back. The genie (which is just under 2.5 metres high, and around 2 metres wide) was carved onto a stone relief or panel around 3,000 years ago ‒ it once adorned the walls of the palace at Nimrud, near modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq. Nimrud has a long history, but one of its claims to fame is as the seat of Ashurnasirpal II, the king of the Assyrian Empire from 883 - 859 BC. During his reign, he took his palace home decor to a new level and had many public spaces and rooms at Nimrud filled with these genies. Stretched over the genie’s midriff is a block of cuneiform in the now extinct language, Akkadian. The text is what’s known as Ashurnasirpal’s Standard Inscription and he had it etched across many of his palace reliefs. Click on the image below to hear how King Ashurnasirpal's message sounds when spoken aloud.

Orc-speak or what?

'Property of the palace of Ashurnarsipal, vice regent of Assur, chosen of the Gods Enlil and Ninurta, beloved of the gods Anu and Dagan, destructive weapon of the great gods, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Tukulti-Ninurta, great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, son of Adad-narari, also great king, strong king, king of the universe, king of Assyria; valiant man who acts with the support of Aššur, his lord, and has no rival among the princes of the four quarters, marvellous shepherd, fearless in battle, mighty flood-tide which has no opponent, the king who subdues those insubordinate to him, he who rules all peoples, strong male who treads upon the necks of his foes, trampler of all enemies, he who breaks up the forces of the rebellious, the king who acts with the support of the great gods, his lords, and has conquered all lands, gained dominion over all the highlands and received their tribute, capturer of hostages, he who is victorious over all countries!'

The particular genie pictured here now lives in the Brooklyn Museum in New York. However the one that has its place in the Museum of Lost Objects, was very similar in style to this one. At some point since the excavation of Nimrud, this genie disappeared ‒ believed to have been taken in the 1990s during the chaos of the first Gulf war ‒ and ended up in London around 2002, just before the mire of the second Gulf war. It’s been kept in London's Metropolitan Police HQ, Scotland Yard for these last 14 years ‒ locked in legal limbo, and unlikely to ever re-emerge or return to Iraq.

The Museum of Lost Objects is a series tracing the stories of ten antiquities and cultural sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria. Find full details here.

Nimrud as a ruin in 1906