The Taylor Prism
Description: The Taylor Prism is a large (38.5 cm high) six-sided clay document which contains the annals of Sennacherib, written down in 691 BC. The prism was discovered in the ruins of the armoury in Nineveh, where it would likely have been deposited in the foundations. The artifact was acquired by the British Consul in Baghdad Col. R. Taylor in 1830 and subsequently donated to the British Museum, where it has remained. As one of the earliest, lengthiest cuneiform texts to be discovered it played a significant role in deciphering and understanding Akkadian cuneiform. The document is most celebrated outside of assyriology for its account of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, an event described in the Bible in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37. King Hezekiah (ha-za-qi-a-u2) of Judah (ia-u2-da-a-a) is said to have been 'locked up like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem his royal city'. The account details the destruction 46 towns in Judah, the payment of a heavy tribute by Sennacherib, and the deportation of '200,150' people. This was one of the first cuneiform texts discovered to provide a direct link to the Hebrew Bible. It also provides historians with a welcome opportunity to examine stories from both sides of an ancient military conflict.
Yet the prism is not significant only for its link to biblical studies. The document it contains is a particularly elegant and complete example of the Royal Inscription genre, and discovered in a location and format that help us to understand how such texts were treated and what significance they held in their own time. (Eva Miller, University of Oxford)
Bibliography: D. Luckenbill. 1927. Ancient records of Assyria and Babylonia: Vol. II. T.C. Mitchell. 1988. The Bible in the British Museum.
Edition(s):A. K. Grayson and J. Novotny. 2012. Royal Inscriptions of the Neo-Assyrian Period: Sennacherib, Part 1.