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Kalhu (modern Nimrud)

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Now known as Nimrud in English, the site is known as كال‎ Kalal in Arabic. It is associated with the biblical site כלח, transliterated as Kalakh or Calah. Nimrud was nestled on east bank of the Tigris, north of Ashur and Kar Tukulti Ninurta. Kalhu had been occupied in the Neolithic, but was founded Kalhu was founded as a provincial city circa 1280 BC in the Assyrian heartland by Assyrian king Shalmaneser I. By the 9th century BC the settlement mound had grown to a substantial height. In ~880 BC, Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II famously transformed Nimrud from a provincial town into the new glistening capital of Assyria. His building campaign began in 878 BC as soon as his first military victories provided him the necessary workforce. Ashurnasirpal II built a new city wall that was 7½km and enclosed 360ha, within which was a 20ha palace citadel built on the old settlement mound.

Significant finds at Nimrud include the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, found in the Central Palace erected by Shalmaneser III and Tiglath-Pileser IV. Also, the Nimrud Ivories, the remains of the royal furniture at Nimrud. Sargon II established Dur Sharrukin to replace Nimrud as capital of Assyria.

מִן-הָאָרֶץ הַהִוא, יָצָא אַשּׁוּר; וַיִּבֶן, אֶת-נִינְוֵה, וְאֶת-רְחֹבֹת עִיר, וְאֶת-כָּלַח. וְאֶת-רֶסֶן, בֵּין נִינְוֵה וּבֵין כָּלַח--הִוא, הָעִיר הַגְּדֹלָה.

Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and Rehoboth-ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah--the same is the great city. Genesis 10:11-12




Has yielded excellent inscriptions.

Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II

The royal palace of Ashurnasirpal II.

Fort Shalmaneser

Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud was sacked in 614 BC. The invaders took out all the ivory furniture that was stored there, tore off the gold and left the ivory.

Central Palace

Nine temples

According to Shalmaneser I's inscriptions there were about nine temples.


Assyrian reliefs often recount the majestic gardens of Assyrian gardens, packed with exotic flora and fauna.

Artwork motifs

There are three kinds of relief motifs throughout Nimrud.


Symbolic and religious imagery included the Tree of Life, signs of the gods and signs of the genii (good spirits). The king was often shown performing rituals. Reliefs depicting piety were situated in spots of great importance, such as behind the king's throne, as they reassured that the king was directly connected to the divinities.


Booty scenes showed ambassadors of different lands bringing tribute to the Assyrian capital. Booty scenes dominated the outer courtyard. Tribute scenes were found in the outer courtyard, where tributaries may have actually been presented.


Narrative scenes consisted of reliefs depicting the king's hunts military campaigns. The top and bottom portions had a continuous visual narrative, while through the middle was a standard inscription describing the events shown. Narrative scenes dominated the throne room, making it a place where both the king and his achievements were visible. Narrative reliefs were remarkably accurate in depicting a territory's landscape, inhabitants and material culture.


Jastrow. 1915.