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The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

In December 1846, while working with his excavation team at Nimrud(ancient Kalhu or biblical Calah), located in northern Mesopotamia in present-day Iraq, Sir Austen Henry Layard discovered the obelisk. It was in a perfect state of preservation and is still considered the only complete Assyrian obelisk ever found. It was later on transferred to the British Museum (BM “Big number” 118885; Registration Number 1848,1104.1).

The obelisk is a black limestone stela or a monument. It was erected in the year 825 BCE within the courtyard of the so-called “Central Building” within Kalhu (the Assyrian capital at that time) as a public monument during a civil war and turbulence . The obelisk is 197.48 cm in height, 81.91 cm height (of plinth), and 45.08 cm in width. The top was made in the shape of a ziggurat.

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