Friday, August 24, 2018

Austen Henry Layard

Austen Henry Layard (born March 5, 1817, Paris—died July 5, 1894, London) was a French-born Englishman who began his career as an armchair archaeologist and ended it as one of the greatest contributors to modern knowledge of the Assyrian Empire. Layard was born in Paris to Henry Peter John Layard (1783 -1834), who had worked in the Ceylon Civil Service, and Marianne Austen, who was the daughter of a London banker.

When he was 16, he went to work for his great-uncle, a lawyer, in London, where he spent six years. At age 22, he applied for a position as a civil servant in Ceylon, but a fascination with the Middle East and the desire for an adventurous life prevailed.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Austen Henry Layard uncovered parts of several ancient, buried Assyrian cities, including the capital, Nineveh, and dragged sizeable bits of them back to the British Museum. His book, Nineveh and Its Remains (1849), was a Victorian sensation.

Nineveh was one of the greatest cities of its time and was an important religious center around 3000 BC. Commerce and religion thrived in the city, which was decorated with ornate stone carvings and reliefs and boasted well-defended walls and an aqueduct.

On his return from the excavation campaigns in Persia (1845-1851), he duly entered politics after serving as unpaid attaché at Constantinople. His political career, as a Liberal, provided him with a public stage where he could try to put into effect his view on cultural policy, gain a reputation and at the same time get acquainted with the leading figures of his age.
Austen Henry Layard
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