Hormuzd Rassam

Photo:Portrait by Philip Henry Delamotte

Portrait by Philip Henry Delamotte

Swansea Museum

Photo:A lost world begins to emerge

A lost world begins to emerge

Frederick Cooper

A great archaeologist

By Carolyn Sansbury

Hormuzd’s career really began in 1845 when he was 19: a young British archaeologist, Henry Layard, was excavating the ancient city of Nineveh which lay just across the river Tigris from Mosul, and stayed at the Rassam family’s hospitable home. Layard was impressed by Hormuzd’s pleasant character, his honesty, intelligence and enthusiasm, and he took Hormuzd on as his assistant. The two young men were to become lifelong friends. 

When, for reasons of health and political ambitions, Layard gave up his archaeological work, he recommended that Hormuzd should take over from him. And Hormuzd very soon made two of his most exciting discoveries: the beautiful Lion Hunt reliefs, now in the British Museum, and the clay tablets which were later found to contain the story we call The Epic of Gilgamesh.

For many years, especially in later life, Hormuzd Rassam was in charge of much of the archaeological work that the British Museum was conducting in Mesopotamia, and the fact that, unlike all the other archaeologists working there, he was a native of the country, meant that he often succeeded where others failed. But Hormuzd sometimes ran up against prejudice, and was not always given credit for the great discoveries that he made.

This page was added on 08/04/2010.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.