Height: 2.700 cm
Length: 18.000 cm
Room 6: Assyrian sculpture
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Bronze band from the gates of the palace of Shalmaneser III
Balawat (ancient Imgur-Enlil), northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, 858-824 BC
Tablets inform us that the gates at Balawat (one days march to the north-east of Nimrud) were made of fragrant cedar wood; they were hung on huge cedar-wood trunks capped with bronze and turned in stone sockets. The gates were perhaps around 6.8 metres high. When they were discovered in 1878 by Hormuzd Rassam, the wood had completely rotted, leaving the bronze fragments now in the Museum. Eight bands were fixed to the outer face of each door, and there is a great variety in the details of the subject-matter and in the workmanship.
Part of the scene depicts King Shalmaneser on campaign in 852 BC, when he took an expedition northwards from Assyria to find metals and horses. During the campaign he discovered the source of the River Tigris. Rivers were thought to be gods, and the discovery of their source was considered a holy moment. A stela is shown in the process of being carved: a workman, busy with a hammer and chisel, receives directions from a scribe, one of a class of people whose duties included ensuring that the king was always represented in the correct manner. Meanwhile animals are brought for sacrifice, and men with torches explore the cave from which the river flows.
The carvings and inscriptions left by Shalmaneser are still visible today south-west of Lake Van in eastern Turkey.
J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
L.W. King, Bronze reliefs from the gates (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1915)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)