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The Nimrud lens is a 3000 year old piece of rock crystal, which was unearthed by Austen Henry Layard at the Assyrian palace of Nimrudmarker. It may have been used as a magnifying glass, or as a burning-glass to start fires by concentrating sunlight. Assyrian craftsmen made intricate engravings, and could have used such a lens in their work.

Italian scientist Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome has proposed that the lens was used by the ancient Assyrians as part of a telescope. This would explain why the ancient Assyrians knew so much about astronomy (see Babylonian astronomy). Experts on Assyrian archaeology are unconvinced, doubting that the optical quality of the lens is sufficient to be of much use. The ancient Assyrians saw the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by a ring of serpents, which Pettinato suggests was their interpretation of Saturn's rings as seen through a telescope. Other experts say that serpents occur frequently in Assyrian mythology, and note that there is no mention of a telescope in any of the many surviving Assyrian astronomical writings.

The Nimrud lens is on display in the British Museummarker.

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