Box icon Sir Henry Austen Layard (1817-1894)

Discoverer of lost cities

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Sir Austen Henry Layard had a varied career as a traveller, art historian, draughtsman, collector, author and diplomat. He was also famed as an archaeologist due to his excavation of ancient cities in Iraq.

Between 1845 and 1847 and 1849 and 1851 Layard excavated the 7th to 9th century BC Assyrian royal palaces at Nimrud in modern Iraq. However, Layard initially incorrectly identified the site as Nineveh.

Through his excavations of buildings, palaces and libraries, Layard discovered many statues and treasures. He displayed many of the sculptures he had discovered, including, at the British Museum, colossal statues of winged bulls which caused a sensation.

When he made his discoveries public, Layard was credited with having 'made the Bible true'. In 1853, he was given the freedom of the City of London for demonstrating 'the accuracy of Sacred History'.

Murray published many of Layard's works, including the lavish and beautifully illustrated two-volume book 'Nineveh and its Remains' (1848-1849) and 'Discoveries in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon' (1853). Layard also contributed to 'Murray's Handbook for Travellers to Rome' and to 'Murray's Magazine' and the 'Quarterly Review'.

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NRA name: Layard, Sir Austen Henry (1817-1894). Knight, politician, diplomat, archaeologist.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.


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'It was of course with no little excitement that I suddenly found myself in the magnificent abode of the old Assyrian kings.'
– Proofs of Layard's 'Nineveh and its Remains', 1848 (Ms.42351 p.368).


Approximate location of one of the places Austen Layard excavated:
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