The project directors at work on the glazed bricks © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / Olaf M. Teßmer; CC NC-BY-SA
The bricks on their palettes in the museum storerooms © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / Olaf M. Teßmer; CC NC-BY-SA
Studying the badly-weathered bricks under ultra-violet light is proving particularly useful. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum
The facades were sketched by the excavators while still in situ. © Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft / Skizze W. Andrae
A large collection of glazed bricks from Assur (Iraq) is currently undergoing scholarly investigation at the Vorderasiatisches Museum. Around 3,000 in number, some wholly intact, others in fragments, they were excavated in Assur by Walter Andrae and his team between 1903 and 1914 and came to Berlin as a result of agreements on the division of finds. They have been undergoing conservation over the past few years as part of the general renovation programme at the Pergamonmuseum.
The bricks date from the Neo-Assyrian period between the 9th and the early 7th centuries BCE and are thus older than the familiar glazed-brick facades of the late-Babylonian Ishtar Gate and Processional Way in the permanent exhibition (late 7th/6th century BCE). Most of the Assur bricks adorned the courtyards of the Assur Temple, the shrine of the most important Assyrian god.
In contrast to the Babylonian facades, with their individual figurative elements, the Assyrian glazed-brick facades represent a broad spectrum of themes, many of which are narrative and thus recall the narrative reliefs from the Assyrian palaces. There are depictions, for example, of the Assyrian army on military campaign in difficult terrain, and of enemy cities in flames, having just been attacked. Assyrian field camps are shown, and we even see the families of vanquished rulers being deported. Other subjects include gods and genii and scenes of religious and ritual events. The results of the studies will be used for a visual, three-dimensional reconstruction of the glazed-brick facades from Assur. A physical reconstruction will also be made for the new permanent exhibition at the Vorderasiatisches Museum, using a selection of suitable objects.
Project directors: Dr. Helen Gries in cooperation with Dr. Anja Fügert (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut).
Funding: The research project is being financed since 2018 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. From 2016 to 2018 the project was funded by funds provided by the Freunde der Antike auf der Museumsinsel Berlin e. V.