Born in Torino, Italy, he excavated in Kuyundshik (Niniveh) in 1842 and in Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) in 1843. Botta believed Khorsabad to be the site of Niniveh. After he had cabled news of his discovery - "Niniveh est retrouvé" to Paris, the French government financed his excavations there. The artist Eugène Flandin was sent to Mesopotamia to document Botta's discoveries – fortunately, as it turned out. In 1846, many statues from Khorsabad were sent to Paris.
In 1855, Victor Place, Botta's successor tried to send finds from Kish, Khorsabad, Nimrud and from Assurbanipal's palace in Niniveh, 235 cases all in all, from Mosul down the Tigris and the Shatt al-Arab to Basra, where they were to be loaded on a ship bound to Paris. One barge and four rafts were used, the rafts transported two human headed winged bulls and two winged Genii as well as other works of art. All the vessels were overloaded, and during the journey they were several times attacked by "Arab pirates". On the 21 March or 23 March, after passing the toll station at Zejeyyak (Zecheiya) the barge was rammed by pirates and sunk "one and a half hour downriver from Al-Qurna", on the left bank of the river.
One raft, laden with a winged bull later sunk in the middle of the Shatt-al-Arab near Kout el Fiengoui Only two rafts reached Basra. The finds are in the Louvre and the British Museum today. Several attempts to recover the boats in 1855 failed.
Botta died in Achères, France in 1870