Memory of destroyed Khorsabad, Victor Place, and the story of a shipwreck

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

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Victor Place was appointed as a consul to Mosul in 1851, where having arrived in 1852 he started excavations at Khorsabad. Financial problems forced him to stop this activity towards the end of 1853. As the Interior Ministry appointed him to another post in 1854, he wanted to transport the Khorsabad finds before he left Mosul. However, the roads were extremely unsafe because of the Muntafiq Arab tribes' revolt. The local authorities repeatedly warned Place about this problem, stressing that he should wait until after the revolt was over before leaving. But despite these warnings, Place transported the Khorsabad finds from Mosul to Baghdad by keleks (rafts). The plan was then to transport them to Basra from Baghdad. Place set off on the river with a fleet made up of four keleks and a ship. Smuggled goods loaded on the ship made it heavier and attracted the attention of looters. On 21 May 1855, the fleet was attacked by bandits in the region of Kurna, located between Baghdad and Basra. The ship and two keleks sank at the spot, while the remaining two keleks arrived at Basra with some of the rescued goods. Various attempts to retrieve the sunken finds then followed. This article accordingly considers new data on the Kurna accident, drawing on Ottoman archival sources, particularly reports written at the time that discussed the possible causes of the accident and the negligent actions linked to it. As the destroyed memory of Khorsabad makes clear, archaeology cannot be rushed.


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Assyrian archaeology, kelek, Khorsabad, Kurna, Lamassu


Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

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GENÇ, B. (2021). Memory of destroyed Khorsabad, Victor Place, and the story of a shipwreck. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 31(4), 759-774. doi:10.1017/S135618632100016X