Image of Utu Shamash Sun God from British Museum collection


Nineveh (Akkadian: 𒌷𒉌𒉡𒀀 uru NI.NU.A Ninua - The first sign uru 𒌷 is a marker for city in Akkadian) is located in northern Mesopotamia on the eastern bank of the Tigris river, next to current day Mosul in Iraq. As the capital of Assyria, it was the largest city in the world around 650 BCE, with over 100,000 inhabitants. The city of Nineveh was 750 hectares or 7.5 km2, enclosed by a 12 km long brick wall.

The city of Nineveh was probably founded around 6000 BCE. The city grew in importance under the Assyrian Empire, in particular during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (900-600 BCE). King Sennacherib made Nineveh into a city without rival around 700 BCE, with wonders such as his 80-room palace. He also built incredible gardens that might have been the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon", fed by a 40km long acqueduct.

Map of the city of Larsa
Image of elephant with ivory tusks

Travellers guide to Nineveh

Read this wonderful travellers guide to Nineveh, written by curator Gareth Brereton at the British Museum.

Image of the Sumerian sun god Utu or Shamash

Mentions in the Hebrew Bible

Nineveh is mentioned multiple times in the Hebrew Bible, initially in Genesis 10:11 "Ashur left that land and built Nineveh". Ashur was the grandson of Noah.
In the Book of Jonah, Jonah/Jonas was a prophet that was asked by God to go to Nineveh to warn its residents of God's wrath. He refuses, boards a boat to go elsewhere, and is promptly swallowed by a whale. Only when he agrees to go to Nineveh does the whale leave him on a shore.

In Sumeria, Utu is the son of the moon god Nanna-Suen and he is the twin brother of Inana. Later, Šamaš (his Akkadian name) was made the son of Enlil or Anu. Utu/Šamaš was married to Aya, goddess of the dawn. Read more about Utu/Šamaš, the sun god.

date palm


Larsa started out as a small city state. Around the end of the Ur III period, Larsa emerged as the local ruler of a small empire covering 10-15 city states.


sculpture of worshipper at Larsa


The most famous Larsa rulers were Gungunum, who conquered the neighbouring city of Ur around 1920 BCE, and Rim-Sin I, who was beaten by Babylonia and saw the end of the Larsa empire around 1763 BCE.

See a complete list of Larsa kings.

cuneiform tablet with numbers


A number of important Cuneiform tablets have been found in Larsa, and a number of them deal with mathematics. One tablet proves that the people of Larsa understood trigonometry almost 4000 years ago.

One of the most important mathematical tablets is linked to Larsa, the Plimpton 322, which shows that people in Mesopotamia understood trigonometry much earlier than the Greeks (we originally thought that the Greeks had discovered trigonometry).

Larsa today

Nineveh today

The ancient city of Nineveh is located in the outskirts of Mosul in Iraq. The site suffered from ISIS destruction recently. Another risk to the site is the large Mosul Dam upstream of the Tigris. If it fails, the Nineveh site could be flooded.

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The game of Ur

Possibly the oldest board game in existence, and surely the oldest we have rules for, the Game of Ur is a fascinating predecessor to Backgammon. Watch a video on how to play it, and see the original at British Museum.