Episode 67. Amy Gansell: Dressing Assyria’s queens: transcript

00:13 JT
Hello, and welcome to the Thin End of the Wedge, the podcast where experts from around the world share new and interesting stories about life in the ancient Middle East. My name is Jon. Each episode I talk to friends and colleagues and get them to explain their work in a way we can all understand.

00:32 JT
Early excavations often targeted the ruined palaces of ancient Iraq. Among the carved reliefs decorating the walls of Assyria’s palaces were depictions of the king and his courtiers; one also depicts a queen. More than 100 years later, excavations revealed astonishing new evidence: the bodies of some of the queens themselves, with their jewels and fragments of the clothes suggested by the reliefs.

01:01 JT
Despite their near absence from large-scale palace art, the queens would have been important figures at court. They would have made an unforgettable impression around the palace. As with so much of court paraphernalia, the royal figure conveyed all sorts of messages. What would the queens wear, and what did it mean? Dress was primarily visual, but other senses were invoked as well.

01:28 JT
So get yourself a cup of tea, make yourself comfortable, and let’s meet today’s guest.

01:56 JT
Hello, and welcome to Thin End of the Wedge. Thank you for joining us.

02:00 AG
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

02:02 JT
Can you tell us please: who are you, and what do you do?

02:06 AG
I’m Amy Gansell. I’m an art history professor at St. John’s University in New York City. I’m also the coordinator for our Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program here. And I specialise in studying the ancient Assyrian queens. So, women and their representations in art and archaeology in the ancient Near East, broadly.

02:27 JT
Okay, thank you. And today we are going to talk about the Assyrian queens and dress. First of all, how do we actually know about dress at all? Women’s dress or Assyrian queenly dress? Textiles tend not to survive, do they? What sources do we have for this topic?

02:45 AG
Well, we actually have a good deal of evidence about ancient textiles and clothing if we put together a lot of different resources. There is some archaeological evidence, particularly from Nimrud. From inside the queens’ coffins, there have been some fragments, little bits of textiles, preserved that have been analysed and tested to determine that they were primarily linen textiles that were used for presumably for their clothing, but also maybe as shrouds to wrap their dressed bodies in. In addition to that, there is textual evidence that refers to types of fabric, treatments of fabrics such as dyes and bleaching, as well as different types of garments.

03:27 AG
And then of course, we have the art historical record. Now, it’s difficult to match up some of the texts, the ancient terminology that we have, to what we find in the archaeological record or the visual record, because obviously, nothing comes with a label. But we do have a lot of examples, especially in the visual arts. We know from looking at images in art that royal garments were draped and belted and that’s something I’ll get back to in a moment. We also know that royal clothing was highly decorated, especially with imagery that’s evoking flowers, maybe trees. In some of the images of kings, we see more complex narrative scenes that relate to those that are known to us from large-scale Assyrian art: scenes of hunt, war, and ritual.

04:18 AG
So going back to the aspect of the garments being draped and belted, how do we know about royal clothing? Well, if we put the ancient evidence together and we apply it, we can attempt to reconstruct based on what is preserved what an actual garment might have looked like. And I in doing so worked with a costume designer and scholar of the ancient Near East, Elizabeth Clancy. And we used fabric and draped according to matching up what we saw in art, and she was able to discover the manner in which a queen’s garment would have been draped in 360 degrees. The problem with art is it usually just shows a profile view. So we’re kind of struggling to imagine what the entire living dressed body would have looked like. But these contemporary reconstruction efforts are taking us there too.

05:13 JT
Brilliant, thank you. As you were saying that, I realised there’s an obvious question I missed off, which is about experimental archaeological approach.

05:20 AG

05:20 JT
What did you learn from doing it in the physical world, recreating these things? What did that teach you that you couldn’t learn from iconography, say?

05:28 AG
Certainly, it taught us what the garment look like in 360 degrees. It gives you a sense. I even got to be a model, to attempt to wear a garment that she draped on me. It gives you a sense of how it would feel to be in a draped garment. It’s both and restrictive compared to what we’re used to in modern clothing, but it’s also very flexible and flowing with the fabric. We also observed that the way the garment falls when you just comfortably sit down in a chair is not what it looks like in art. But if you carefully bunch up the hem and tuck it underneath you, and sit there perfectly still, you can recreate the same garment lines, and hemlines, and drapery lines that we see in art. So prior to this experiment, we kind of assumed that what we saw in art was an idealised image. Maybe the garment could not possibly fall in that manner. But we do know now that just like in modern fashion photography, if you pose something very carefully, you can achieve that ideal appearance.

06:37 EB
I love that idea of idealism versus the real element, and especially the experience. I’m sure I’ve told you that I really think that everyone should try wearing what people are wearing in representations of the ancient world. I wanted to very quickly ask you: when you were going through the different sources that you have available, I think most assyriologists are fairly familiar with the texts, and those doing new Assyrian history are quite familiar with the huge images in the palaces. But could you give us a quick introduction to the tombs of the queens? That’s a really unique set of sources.

07:12 AG
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And the tombs are the most recently discovered piece of the puzzle here. They were discovered in the late 1980s, 1988/1989, into the early 90s, in Iraq at the city of Nimrud, which is near Mosul today. They were originally published in the late 90s, and in a catalogue in 2000. But they didn’t gain as much international attention as far as the breadth of their archaeological material. Because the catalogue was published in Arabic. There were very, very few copies of that catalogue available. And the other publications that came out, there was even in some popular magazines, news articles that came out, but they would highlight one or two, or maybe a dozen treasure artifacts. They didn’t really give us a sense of what the artifacts of dress from head to toe would have entailed, let alone the consistency with which we were finding these elements of dress across the different burials of these royal women. I started working on them in the early 2000s, when not much was published. And they’re gaining more and more attention and being more integrated into our research, not just on dress, but on royal culture overall.

08:35 EB
I have a quick question as well about do you have a sense of any difference between what these women were wearing in the burials to what they represented in the images?

08:49 AG
Well, we’re dealing with a very fragmentary record, especially with the images. So the large scale detailed images that we have of queenly dress date to the seventh century. And the material that we have from the tomb dates earlier to probably the ninth and eighth century. So it’s hard to correlate. You know, what we see is not what we get in these tombs. But if you look back at what people were buried in, in the 1800s, and what we’re depicted in today, it’s not gonna match up either. So we can’t just assume that their images and their burial dress were different for some cultural reason at that moment. But we also can tell there’s lots that was found in the tomb, lots of artifacts that are not depicted in art. I can get into that in more detail and tell you more about what the tombs reveal to us that is not preserved in any other record if you want.

09:50 JT
Yes, please. I think that might be a good time to do it. There is this other question on a very basic level: what would a queen actually wear?

09:59 AG
Sure, let do an overview of what a queen would actually wear. And I do believe that these queens were wearing these ensembles, these royal ensembles, in life as well as in death. That it wasn’t just a special costume for the afterlife, or for a funeral or burial. That what we find in the tombs is indicative of what they sat on the throne in, in the palace in life. So, starting from that top, you would have a diadem and also crown, so headgear. It seems that some of the queens were buried with multiple options for what to wear on their head. So it seems that perhaps for different occasions or different contexts, different headgear was worn.

10:42 AG
There’s a type of diadem that’s consistently found across multiple of these tombs. So that seems to be kind of the standard base diadem for a top-ranked royal woman, i.e. the queen. And then these elaborate crowns, each of which is unique that have been found in the tombs might have differentiated them on an individual level. But just to have one of those crowns would have been a queenly crown, in addition to the diadem. But it seems to be worn separately. You couldn’t put a crown over the diadem necessarily. You’d cover up your diadem. So moving on down, the crown sits on the hair. So some of the diameters of the crowns and diadems are quite wide. They’re wider than most women’s heads. Significantly wider. So it suggests that the queens had very poofy hair. They might have been styling it. They might though, have padded their hairstyles out with hair pieces or were wearing wigs. So the hair is something that I really consider as part of the dress of what a queen would wear.

11:50 AG
And then of course, we have the jewelry ensemble. Starting on the top, you would have a pair of earrings, so an earring in each ear. You would have necklace or necklaces. There are also a lot of beads found in the tomb. So they may have had long strings of beads as it’s been reconstructed by archaeologists. But it’s possible that some of the beads were beading on garments or wraps that the queens were wearing. Then, of course they had that garment, the draped garment. The garment itself might have been ornamented or it was definitely ornamented, but it might have been ornamented with embroidery and or with little metal medallions. It’s like the sequins of ancient time. We have gold medallions, very thin, but they have attachments on the back like a loop that you could sew onto a garment. Or some of them have holes, like buttonholes that you could sew them on with. And that would have covered the garment. In terms of the embroidery, some of the tufts of fabric that I mentioned earlier, have evidence — it’s been microscopically examined — that looks like it may have been partly embroidered. So that’s another form of decoration on the garment surface. They also had tassels and fringes on the garments. So all of that is creating motion and brilliance adding to the body.

13:12 AG
Moving on down from the torso covering, there’s some artifacts that we don’t know how they were worn. I think they might have been draped over the shoulders. I call them body ornaments, but we don’t have any depictions and in to explain what they were. Then you would have bracelets worn in pairs; one on each, at least one on each wrist. And you would have that matched with anklets. Again, worn in pairs. And the anklets, they’re ribbed and quite high. And if you just see an image of it in art, you might think they’re wearing a stack of half a dozen bangles on their ankles. But these are cuff bracelets made of metal that have the ridges that suggest that they’re wearing a stack of individual anklets. They had also rings, and rings come in sets of 10. So you would have a ring on every finger. It’s symmetrical, but covering every finger with a ring. There’s even a tiny set of 10 rings that are child’s size. And they have chains that attach them to a bracelet. It’s almost as if it was training to get a young royal child used to wearing rings on all their fingers, but they wouldn’t be able to play with them and take them off or possibly lose them.

14:28 JT
Hmm. Do you think these features are female centered? Are they royal centered? Or royal females? What does it symbolise?

14:36 AG
Well, I think that they are royal centered. They’re emblems of empire. And part of what’s the imagery when we start looking at at the jewelry, it has images of trees, of flowers, a lot of pomegranate show up. You see that same kind of motif showing up in the decoration inside the palace. And as depicted on the garments and objects associated with the king. So it’s kind of a shared iconography, a shared image of empire that the queen is participating in. I think that’s really important, because she’s partaking in this imagery. It’s not just what queens where. It’s what empire wears. It’s what empire is. It produces her as part of the matrix of the palace; part of the matrix of the empire, and on par as a partner to the king.

15:36 AG
Now, within the ensemble of what they’re wearing, queens are wearing a different head dress than the king, because you need to be able to recognise them, immediately announcing rank. This is the king. This is the queen. The crown prince would also have his own specialised head dress. And then in terms of the types of jewelry worn, there seem to be some earring forms that have pendants that are hanging down; just a singular cylindrical kind of pendant. That seems to be associated more with men and eunuchs in the court. And we don’t have any examples of that showing up depicted on queens or in their tombs. Whereas the queens’ earrings are more crescent-shaped, with tiny pendants that might dangle down off of them almost like a fringe. So there’s some gendering, I think, in the design of the types of jewelry.

16:29 AG
Also men and eunuchs also were wearing cuffs on the tops of their arms to show off, or to enhance the appearance of their biceps. And women’s musculature, for ideals of femininity was not something that was emphasised. The female body was very smoothly presented, and not defined in terms of musculature. So you don’t have something in a clamping around the bicep like you see in the other genders, but she would have the bracelets on her wrists. Those are just some examples.

17:03 EB
So were these items of dress the same across the board? Or is there any hint of individual or personal choice in the dress of the queens?

17:13 AG
That is a great question. And there is actually a lot of difference within the sets of jewelry that were found in the tombs. So overall, there was an ensemble, that seems like it was followed according to convention. Just that what I described from head to toe that a queen would wear. That is queenly dress. But within that ensemble, there looks like there’s significant variation from queen to queen. And even just like in our own lives for an individual, perhaps on a day-to-day basis, or, at least according to context and ceremony and events, you wear something different. I speak of these variations, because there will be when we look in the tombs, in the coffins, there are many, many more pieces of jewelry, than could possibly be worn at once. And it looks like it’s the queen’s collection of jewelry that is being buried with her. So one day she might have chosen to wear one necklace versus another.

18:23 AG
We also have a sense that while there are some very standard pieces, they might have represented, you know, like a particular type of bracelet, for example, that is found in two different coffins. Two different queens had the same type of bracelets. Oh, they’re slightly different sizes, so they were probably scaled to the individual wrist size. That might have been a fashion of the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that every queen had to wear a bracelet of exactly this type. That might have been a desirable type of bracelet that the elite women were wearing at that time.

18:58 AG
But then we also find totally unique pieces of jewelry in the different coffins. Now it’s possible because we only have a little snapshot through the archaeological evidence of what is preserved. There’s possible that there’s 10 other bracelets of these types I’m calling unique, but they don’t survive. They’re not known to us yet. But from what we can tell archaeologically, we have these individual bracelets that have maybe unique imagery, unique designs. And it brings up a lot of questions that I can’t answer, but I’d like to highlight: could the queens have been personally commissioning pieces of unique jewelry for themselves? Were there jewelry designers that were making jewelry specifically for individual queens to serve their individual taste or their individual needs? And those needs might have been ceremonial, imperial, ritual, etc.

19:52 AG
Some of the jewelry also that we see as unique, it might have come as part of a queen’s dowry. She might have brought it from her birth family and in some cases from the homeland of her birth. So it might have been coming from outside of Assyria. There’s kind of an international elite culture of jewelry. So it’s hard to pinpoint the origin necessarily of an earring or bracelet type. But it may be that some of this stuff is entering into the Assyrian court and looking unique to us. And it would have really been showing off her heritage or showing off a family heirloom that was special for her. So again, within what is kind of a standard royal Assyrian kit of queenly dress, there seems to have been lots of variation, queen to queen and perhaps personal choice on a day-to-day or event-to-event basis for each queen. What I would love to know is, who dressed the queens when they were buried? And how do they decide which of these items of jewelry to put on their bodies?

20:58 JT
Hmm, I was just wondering, do you think there’s a formalised burialwear that you’re expected to put on at that point, rather than that representing what you’d ordinarily wear on court appearances or, you know, behind the scenes?

21:11 AG
So there very well maybe, and that is something that we don’t have the evidence to tell yet. If there is, it would, at least I think be ritual dress that they’re being buried in. Because this is a great ritual process that’s taking place in the tombs. They’re also preparing to go into the afterlife to live eternally as royals. So they need to be dressed in a recognisable way as a queen. But I think it would be a queen in ritual. But we don’t have enough comparison to really put our finger on what the dress ensembles meant for sure that they were buried in. But I would hazard a guess that they’re in their ritual dress.

21:54 EB
I also really like your idea of there being an internal economy in the palace for just creating things just for the queen to wear. How likely do you think that is? Is there any record of jewelry makers and textile workers in the palace?

22:10 AG
There are definitely royal textile workers and jewelry producers. However, we don’t know if they were working specifically for the queen. We don’t know if they’re just carrying out some imperial template. Or if there are individual requests for what should be made. There’s also a hairdresser that worked in the palace that would serve the queen and a perfume maker for the palace as well. And all of that, again, it’s part of the multisensory aspect of the queen’s dress.

22:44 EB
Do you think that is something that you could come back to in experimental things, like this perfumery. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you think we could recreate the smell of being a queen.

22:54 AG
Ooh, that is very intriguing and tempting to explore. So I would have to look at some publications on the perfumes and I don’t know if they include recipes or descriptions of the scent. But if they do, that would be a place to start. If they do not, we’d have to get very experimental. And perhaps look at the types of fruits and floral imagery that is being worn in their jewelry, in the queen’s dress and see, well, might she have been meant to exude an aroma of these fruits and flowers that she’s wearing on her body too?

23:35 JT
Interesting. Perhaps you could say something else about the other senses? Because I think you mention, don’t you, that there was adornments on the queenly clothing, and do you not suggest that perhaps that gave her a kind of visible presence, a kind of sparkle? Or could you hear a coming as she comes down the corridor and she has all these jewels banging around? Is there a multi-sensory queenly presence that’s being created with dress?

23:57 AG
There absolutely is. The queen, like the king, would have been presented as larger than life, I think, just from the example of these outsized headdresses and the hairstyles and the gleam, the radiance that is bouncing off of their bodies from head to toe, especially with these decorated garments and even the parts of the garments that are not covered in gold sequins. The garments from what we can tell from the bits of fabric preserved in the tombs were white. They might have even been bleached white. So you have to imagine this brilliant white robe. There’s even a possibility that the fabric was burnished, so it would have been shiny. So the fabric itself is light, bright, reflecting light. Then you have the jewelry and the ornaments on it. That’s reflecting light. And this is a quality, a divine quality of radiance that we see even in texts described as being imparted on the king. If the queen is the king’s partner, she’s really also carrying that touched by the divine radiance. So they are mortals, but they’re the mortals most closely connected to the divine. They carry this special characteristic of radiance that I think increases. It’s like an aura of their presence. Their presence extends beyond the body.

25:22 AG
And then you can think about with multisensory consideration how their presence could extend beyond their body. Absolutely, I’m sure you could hear them coming down the hall, turning the corner before you could see them. You’d hear swooshing of these layered and draped garments. You would hear the tinkling of the jewelry, possibly the clanking of anklets on shoes or something like that. But you could hear them before you could see them. When you would see them, the closer they get if they’re perfumed, you would be able to smell that royal presence.

25:56 JT
Hmmm. Does that imply then that there is a status related set of conventions about who can wear jewelry and of how much jewelry, things like that, so that you can’t upstage the queen, say?

26:08 AG
Yeah, well, I don’t know of any record like we have in ancient Rome, about who can wear and how much jewelry or in public. But absolutely, when you look at the art, you can differentiate who the queen is versus other royal women or women who are ranked below and surveying the royal couple, for example. And I’m sure that to be recognised as the queen, one of the criteria is that you are the most highly-adorned mortal woman in Assyria.

26:40 EB
And you mentioned as well that there are bits in the dress that might point to an international life of these women. How far can we take that? So what does the dress of these women indicate about their lives?

26:54 AG
So I mean, you can push it as far as you want to. But sticking within the evidence that we have, there’s, for example, some fibulae. Those are like the ancient safety pins to pin the garment that were found in one of the tombs. And dangling off of them are several little scarabs. So carved stones that look like beetles. It’s an Egyptian symbol. They were also produced in the Levant as an Egyptianising motif. Were these Levantine or even Egyptian items that were imported to Assyria? That is a possibility, but the fibulae themselves — this is why I find this particular artifacts really interesting –the fibulae are appearing to be Assyrian style. So you have the Assyrian empire, holding on to its periphery or its desired edges of the world. And that is telling us a story of empire. The story of empire might also be told through the queens themselves. There has been a lot of research suggesting that at least some of the queens were of Levantine heritage. So that would suggest they’re bringing dowries in of non-Assyrian objects. But there’s a lot of this intercultural and broad Near Eastern elite style of jewelry that we find as well. Wearing those items that are absolutely Assyrian, but that you could also wear in other parts of the Near East. Again, it just represents the breadth, the presence of the empire and the presence of these women in the world, not just in the palace, not just in the Assyrian empire. You’ve got to think of the Assyrian empire from the Assyrian point of view: that is the world in its totality.

28:39 JT
Amy, you’ve just finished a book. So first of all, congratulations on that. What is this book about?

28:44 AG
Well, the book — the title right now is The Queens of Nimrud’s Northwest Palace: Beauty, Power and Presence in the Neo-Assyrian world. And the most important words in that title are “beauty, power, and presence”. So I approach the queens as the epitome of feminine beauty, just as the king would be the epitome of male beauty, at least on Earth; the mortal embodiment of the ideals of beauty. Power is really important. These were not just beautiful, helpless women. These were agents of empire. The queens had administrative royal roles. To be a queen was to be appointed to a royal position. It wasn’t just to be there. Mostly they’re mothers of the king and consort queens. But they’re not just women related to the king, they are women enacting power in the palace, in the empire.

29:45 AG
And that brings us to that word “presence”. They were present fixtures. The queen was a present fixture in the empire, in the world, and I think that she would have been seen. She would have been accessible. Her presence in the palace would have been palpable. We just talked about what she looked like. She would have been seen, heard, you might smell the aroma of her perfume. She could sit on a throne, she had a throne room in the palace, as I argue in the book. So to be in the presence of the queen for a member of the court, it would have been part of royal life. But there may have been a desire among those outside of the daily administration of the court to see the queen, to bask in her power, beauty, and presence that I can’t be certain of. But when you imagine her appearance in this multi-sensory way, it wasn’t somebody that was to be hidden from sight or hidden from the world, it was somebody to be presented.

30:50 JT
Interesting. Can I ask about beauty standards? When you use the word beauty, are there particular characteristics or features or behaviours that are deemed beautiful? Do we know that?

31:01 AG
Okay, well, beauty in any culture is a very complex construct. Its social, its cultural. And if we want to talk about and investigate ancient Assyrian beauty, the first challenge is that there is not a word for beauty, as we see it, as kind of an umbrella encapsulation. I started with the textual record, at the start to look for descriptors of what is ideal, and what is perfection. And those we can find in descriptions of deities, as well as descriptions of the king. And we can even look to aesthetics and descriptions of ideal objects to get a notion of what is a positively-coded aspect of some presence. So when we work through this, there are a lot of Akkadian terms that I have pulled together and that others have worked on as well, that are encoding what I’m interpreting, as a construct of ideal feminine beauty embodied in the Neo-Assyrian queen.

32:11 AG
I know that is a huge mouthful, and you’re just curious of what was a beautiful queen, what was a beautiful woman supposed to look like? Well, instead of look, let’s think of be like. It’s more than just visual. And beauty is something that’s internal as well as externally exhibited. At least, as I’m finding it in some of these descriptors that we have. So radiance, something we already talked about, would be an aspect of beauty. Have this brilliant, lit-up presence. So we would have radiane. You would have symmetrical, well-proportioned figure, as is also an aspect of beauty. And that relates to what we find in art. It relates to what we find in the archaeological record with the jewelry, of everything always been in pairs, equal on both sides of the body. You want to have, it’s kind of a more internal and social characteristic, perhaps a good pedigree, a good upbringing, that would be looked at as part of the formation of a beautiful woman.

33:17 AG
Some of these things also relate to a masculinity as well. You will have a vitality, vivacity and lifefulness about you. And even in death that could be extended and represented through that jewelry that is showing blossoming flowers and fruiting plants and things like that. So the vitality of the presence. There are many sub-categories that start to overlap in some of their aspects and connotations. So, sexuality and fertility start to come up and get cued through different terms in different contexts in which they’re used. So in terms of sexuality, I mean being a sexual person. In terms of fertility, being associated with fertility. And none of these aspects of beauty mean that say you could be a barren woman, but represent, put forth the image of fertility and it’s both biological fertility and as a body of empire and agent of empire, the queen is putting forth the ideal of fecundity of the land. That’s also part of the whole empire’s standard and ideal. You’re embodying these great, broad ideals, and that’s part of the beauty. What would a queen look like? I like to just say she would be meant to look like a goddess. She’s meant to look like the utter perfection of femininity embodied in a human presence.

34:55 JT
Yeah, that’s fantastic. I wonder a bit if the slightly constrictive dress plays a role in your court ceremonies. You’re the queen, and you’re brought out on this formal, very boring, long reception where you have to sit there, and if that constricted dress is part of it, or if it helps you not get backache or something like that? Those kind of formal aspects.

35:15 AG
Yeah, it very well might be, because having an upright posture was an ideal for men and women. The person coming to visit the empire from outside of Assyria would be groveling, or you see a captive with stooped posture. So having this very erect posture, which I even tried to replicate when I was wearing it, was very uncomfortable. Not standing in a relaxed stance, but trying to be very upright like we see it in the images. But if the garment is holding you in place, you can feel it, reminding you to stand up, and to keep those hemlines exactly parallel, that really might have reinforced this ideal posture.

36:01 EB
It’s something that I in my spare time do ridiculous attempts of recreating medieval garments. But it reminds me of a lot of the stuff that I’ve tried to do, and it seems like a recurring thing. The more restrictive or the harder to wear something is, the higher up in status you are. As you were talking about the draping and making sure all the hemlines and all the creases were kept in place and thinking of the wedding saris in India and of the Roman togas and things where you have to stand in one place to show off just how little you have to do in life, just to get by.

36:35 AG
Yeah, I also have a hunch … I could be wrong … but if their ideals are the gods and goddesses. They’re used to seeing cult statues that are carved and standing perfectly still and upright. So it might be emulating that posture that they would see in the cult statue too.

36:56 JT
Hmm. Wow, wow, wow. This is fascinating. Can you remind us please, what is your book called, and when is it due out?

37:04 AG
The book right now is called The Queen’s of Nimrud’s Northwest Palace: Beauty, Power and Presence in the Neo-Assyrian world. And I think I need to add the dates, because the public might not know this is about circa 866 to 705 BCE. I would love to start the title off as Beauty, power and presence, but again, you’d have to read through the title to find out whose beauty power and presence that is. When is it due out and with whom? It’s with Oxford University Press. And hopefully it will be out at the end of 2024 or early on to celebrate the beginning of 2025.

37:41 JT
We’re very much looking forward to that. Is there anything else that we should have asked you?

37:46 AG
One thing I want to mention is sometimes the archaeological finds, it’s not that they differ from what we see in artistic representations, but they give us more information. And one of those areas of more information is the material and especially the colour. So we can finally see the art that’s preserved has lost its colour, especially stone carvings like gray or tan. And we have this really washed-out image. It’s like looking at black and white photos of the past. But the past was a time of vivid colours. So we can see from the types of stones that they’re using and the metal, mostly gold, and the stones are banded agate, which is a dark brownish and black combined with white material; carnelian, which is a reddish orange colour, and lapis lazuli, which is sparkly, deep blue colour.

38:37 AG
So you think of a red, orange, brown, black, white, blue, and gold colour scheme. I think these would have been recognised as imperial colours. And just like we recognise today, the colours of a national flag or a soccer team, when you see that colour combination flashing, coming towards you, that is the colour combination worn by an Assyrian royal. So I just like to emphasise that we need to try to translate in our brains when we’re looking at the evidence into this brilliant polychrome presence.

39:16 JT
Thank you very much indeed.

39:18 AG
You’re welcome.

39:20 JT
I’d also like to thank our patrons: Enrique Jiménez, Jana Matuszak, Nancy Highcock, Jay C, Rune Rattenborg, Woodthrush, Elisa Rossberger, Mark Weeden, Jordi Mon Companys, Thomas Bolin, Joan Porter MacIver, John MacGinnis, Andrew George, Yelena Rakic, Zach Rubin, Sabina Franke, Shai Gordin, Aaron Macks, Maarja Seire, Jaafar Jotheri, Morgan Hite, Chikako Watanabe, Mark McElwaine, Jonathan Blanchard Smith, Kliment Ohr, Christina Tsouparopoulou, TT, Melanie Gross, Claire Weir, Marc Veldman, Bruno Biermann, Faimon Roberts, Jason Moser, Pavla Rosenstein, Müge Durusu-Tanrıöver, Tate Paulette, Willis Monroe, Toby Wickenden, Emmert Clevenstine, Barbara Porter, Cheryl Morgan, Kevin Roy Jackson, Susannah Paulus, Eric Whitacre, Jakob Flygare, Jon Ganuza, as well as those who prefer to remain anonymous.

40:40 JT
I really appreciate your support. It makes a big difference. Every penny received has contributed towards translations. Thanks of course to the lovely people who have worked on the translations on a voluntary basis or for well below the market rate. For Arabic, thanks in particular to Zainab Mizyidawi, as well as Lina Meerchyad and May Al-Aseel. For Turkish, thank you to Pinar Durgun and Nesrin Akan. TEW is still young, but I want to reach a sustainable level, where translators are given proper compensation for their hard work.

41:18 JT
And thank you for listening to Thin End of the Wedge. If you enjoy what we do, and you would like to help make these podcasts available in Middle Eastern languages, please consider joining our Patreon family. You can find us at patreon.com/wedgepod. You can also support us in other ways: simply subscribe to the podcast; leave us a five star review on Apple Music or your favourite podcatcher; recommend us to your friends; follow us on Twitter: @wedge_pod. If you want the latest podcast news, you can sign up for our newsletter. You can find all the links in the show notes and on our website at wedgepod.org. Thanks, and I hope you’ll join us next time.