Nineveh comes to life at La Sierra

Mashki Gate
Mashki Gate
Assyrian girls near the ancient city of Nineveh.
Assyrian girls near the ancient city of Nineveh.

October 29, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker

When people hear about the city of Nineveh, they often connect the name with the famed biblical story of Jonah and the whale--if they’re familiar with it at all. But archaeologists who have labored for years to excavate and research its rich past can provide the broader narrative of this ancient and important community, situated near Mosul, Iraq, with intriguing insights into its life and culture.

On November 13 and 14, La Sierra University’s School of Religion will feature “Nineveh: The Glory of Iraq’s Past,” during the school’s 2nd Annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend. Archaeologists Diana Pickworth and Constance Clark Gane, respectively from the University of California, Berkeley and Andrews University, have focused a good deal of their work on Nineveh and will give accounts of their excavations, bringing to life this 4,000-year-old city.

The weekend’s lineup includes La Sierra and Andrews University archaeologists providing up-to-date news reports on recent digs at on-going excavation sites in Jordan. One lecture will focus on a 3,000-year-old Iron Age temple at Ataruz that recently received international media coverage by MSNBC, Fox News, The Jordan Times, and other outlets.

The event will also offer visitors hands-on workshops on how to make ancient cloth and tools, date pottery and reconstruct ancient ceramic jar shards excavated in Jordan.  

Participants may wish to take a figurative step into the Middle East by sampling sweets and tea in a black, goat-hair Bedouin hospitality tent imported from Jordan last summer. They may also choose to attend a Middle Eastern banquet featuring a presentation by Dr. Ziad Al-Sa`ad, director general of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities and visit with Pickworth and Gane, as well as other archaeologists.

Admission is free to most of the weekend’s events. The banquet with archaeology presenters and Dr. Al-Sa`ad is $50 per person. To RSVP by Thursday noon, November 11, and for additional event information, call 951-785-2041 or email

Pickworth, who earned her Ph.D. in Near Eastern art and archaeology from UC Berkeley and who is currently serving as a visiting scholar there, will present a talk titled “Nineveh: Excavation at ‘Sennacherib’s Gate to Halzi.’” Her extensive fieldwork and excavations in the Middle East includes three excavation seasons as field archaeologist and photographer at the Halzi Gate, Nineveh.

Pickworth has published widely on Nineveh and is currently writing a book on the topic and co-authoring another book on Sennacherib’s gate to Halzi. Netherlands publishing company Brill will publish the two books. This year she also presented a poster titled “Nineveh as the Ancient Metropolis” at the 7th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East held in London, England.

Gane will give a lecture titled “Nineveh in the Rise and Fall of Empires” for archaeology weekend. Gane is currently an assistant professor of archaeology and the Old Testament at Andrews University in Michigan and has recently submitted her doctoral dissertation in Near Eastern studies to UC Berkeley. Her lengthy excavation experience includes serving as an assistant supervisor at Nineveh as well as several seasons at Tall Jalul in Jordan. She is currently the curator at the Siegfried H. Horn Archaeological Museum at Andrews.

Nineveh, its ruins located in Iraq across the Tigris River from the northern city of Mosul, at one time was bordered by a great wall 7.5 miles long and in some places 148 feet wide. It was embedded with 15 great gates, according to a published depiction. One of its most famed rulers, Sennacherib, was responsible for propelling Nineveh into greatness (c. 700 BC). The monarch built new streets, squares and a famous palace. The city comprised 1,800 acres and its residents retrieved water from 18 canals. The Khawsar River flowed through the city to connect with the Tigris on the other side, according to the account.

The School of Religion focuses on an area of the ancient Near Eastern world for its annual archaeology weekend events, said Doug Clark, long-time Jordan archaeologist, professor and associate dean of the School of Religion. Iraq and its ancient city of Nineveh were chosen for this year’s theme. “Nineveh was the most important of the capitals of the Assyrian empire in its heyday and has a long history of archaeological excavation.”

Last year’s kick-off archaeology weekend focused on the Levant, particularly Jordan and the city of Petra. “Next year it will be Egypt,” Clark said.

“The archaeology program at La Sierra has been growing in its collections, programs and excavations for several years,” Clark continued. “We are excited about the program and sense an obligation, as an educational institution, to share with the community what we are privileged to care for. One of the best ways to learn about the ancient world of the Middle East, if people are unable to travel there, is to see exhibits, participate in hands-on workshops with ancient implements, and hear lectures from well known and widely respected experts from around the world.”

Nineveh sunrise
Nineveh sunrise

Following is an events schedule for the 2nd Annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend:

Saturday, November 13


  • 4:00-5:30 p.m., Stahl Center Tours/Program - La Sierra Hall, “Daily Life in Bible Times” (final showing)
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m., Middle Eastern Reception in Hospitality Bedouin Tent - Founders Green, featuring a genuine black goat-hair tent made in Jordan last summer
  • 6:30-8:00 p.m., Middle Eastern Banquet-Cactus Room, with Dr. Ziad Al-Sa`ad, Director General of Jordan’s Dept. of Antiquities, & archaeology presenters • $50/person.

Sunday November 14


  • 2:00-4:00 p.m., Archaeology Site Lectures - Palmer Hall
    • `Umayri, Jordan, by Douglas Clark and Kent Bramlett, La Sierra University
    • Hisban, Jordan, by Øystein LaBianca, Andrews University
    • Jalul, Jordan, by Constance Clark Gane, Andrews University
    • Ataruz, Jordan, by Chang-Ho Ji, La Sierra University
  • 4:00-5:30 p.m., Hands-on Workshops - Palmer Hall
    • (15 min) Pottery Dating by Kent Bramlett, La Sierra University
    • (10 min) Lithics (Flintstones) by Julie Cormack, Mount Royal University
    • (10 min) Textiles (Clothing) by Mary Boyd, Seattle
    • (10 min) Large Ceramic Jar Reconstruction by Douglas Clark, et al.
      45 minutes for people to work where they would like—pottery, lithics, textiles, reconstruction
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m., Middle Eastern Reception in Hospitality Bedouin Tent - Founders Green

“Nineveh: The Glory of Iraq’s Past”
6:30-8:30 p.m. • Hole Memorial Auditorium

 “Nineveh in the Rise and Fall of Empires”
Constance Clark Gane, Andrews University

 “Nineveh: Excavation at ‘Sennacherib’s Gate to Halzi’”
Diana Pickworth, University of California, Berkeley


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  November 08, 2010