John Malcolm Russell— 1992 James R. Wiseman Book Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to honor John Malcolm Russell with the James R. Wiseman Book Award for his major contribution to Near Eastern archaeology, Sennacherib’s Palace without Rival at Nineveh.

The palace of the eighth- and seventh-century B.C. Assyrian king Sennacherib is known mainly from the 19th-century excavations conducted there by A.H. Layard and his successors. This work produced palace plans, sculpture, and a variety of epigraphical documents. Publication of these early excavations was limited, however, and both the material objects and the documentation were scattered.

John Russell has undertaken the formidable task of assembling this diverse evidence relating to the design, building history, and decoration of the palace. The information is presented with detailed clarity. His research, however, extends well beyond antiquarian reconstruction. Assyrian buildings provide excellent examples of the integration of architecture written text, and decoration to present an ideological statement. Much of Russell's work centers on the nature and purpose of this propagandistic message. He considers the conventions and traditions that dictated the use of text and picture in Assyrian palaces, and reconstructs the ways in which Sennacherib was both a follower and an innovator. He discusses the potential audiences for the various messages and considers which parts of those propagandistic messages were accessible to which of the diverse groups that Sennacherib strove to impress.

Too often in ancient studies the information to be obtained from written texts is separated from that derived from pictorial representations. Too often detailed reconstructive scholarship is seen as incompatible with the use of innovative theory. John Russell has demonstrated that text, picture, archival research, and contemporary theory can be integrated into an imaginative reconstruction of how the representations on an ancient building were intended to affect those who used the structure. Sennacherib’s Palace without Rival at Nineveh provides a splendid model for any scholar studying the nature of official propaganda in antiquity. It illustrates well the need for an approach to antiquity that bridges Near Eastern, Greek and Roman cultures in order to produce a comprehensive vision of cultural processes in Western Asia and the Mediterranean world.

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