NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Archaeologists have unearthed the gold-stuffed tomb of two women in what appears to be the richest discovery ever made at ancient Nimrud in northern Iraq.

The 2,700-year-old tomb in the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II contained more than 55 pounds of gold jewelery including diadems, necklaces, earrings, belts and anklets, the English-language Baghdad Observer reported Friday.

The official Iraqi News Agency, monitored in Cyprus, carried details of the newspaper report.

Nimrud, a sprawling site 250 miles north of Baghdad, was a major city of the Assyrian empire that extended from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean in the first millennium B.C.

Ashurnasirpal II was a ruthless but brilliant military leader who built the vast palace at Nimrud in the 9th century B.C.

Scores of Iraqi and foreign archaeological teams have dug at Nimrud in a century-and-a-half of excavations since British explorer Henry Layard uncovered huge stone sculptures and inscriptions there in the 1840s.

The explorers included British archaeologist Max Mallowan, the husband of author Agatha Christie, who excavated close to the newly found tomb between 1949 and 1958.

Some of Layard's and Mallowan's finds are displayed in the British Museum in London, as well as in Iraq's national museum in Baghdad.

Muzahem Mahmoud, the Iraqi archaeologist who made the new discovery, said an inscribed stone tablet found in the 32-by-14-foot burial chamber identified one of the women as Yabaya of the Assyrian royal court, the newspaper reported.

The inscription in wedge-shaped cuneiform script also placed a curse on anyone who opened the tomb.

''If anyone lays his hands on my tomb, or opens my grave, or steals my jewelery, I pray to the gods of the nether world that his soul shall roam in the scorching sun after death...Let the ghost of insomnia take hold of him for ever and ever,'' it said.

The other woman was identified only as a much younger person named Taliya, the newspaper said.

Yabaya's possessions included gold needles, a bronze mirror with its enamel handle encrusted with precious stones, and tiny tongs for applying kohl, a dark eye makeup, the paper said.

''We found more than 100 earrings beside her skull, some small, some large. She had all her personal belongings buried with her in the grave,'' Mahmoud said.

The report said that rich royal tombs had been unearthed at Ashur, another Assyrian city, but none contained as many precious objects as the Nimrud grave.

It said that although the Assyrian empire is well-documented, there are few references to the role of women at the royal court.

However, Queen Semiramis is known to have ruled Assyria for five years at the end of the 9th century B.C.