Length: 8.500 in
Width: 8.500 in
Thickness: 1.000 in
Phoenician, about 8th century BC
From Nimrud, northern Iraq
The slaying of the demon Humbaba
This very fragmentary bronze platter was discovered in the last century in the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. It was probably acquired as tribute or booty by the Assyrian monarchs as they led their armies towards the Mediterranean.
The decoration is typically Phoenician, a mixture of Near Eastern and Egyptian motifs. One figure with raised hands and gripping a demon's hair has been identified as related to the slaying of Humbaba. This is part of the story of the Mesopotamian hero king Gilgamesh who, with his companion Enkidu, defeated the demon Humbaba. This tale is first known from Sumerian stories of the early second millennium BC, but by around 1200 BC the Epic of Gilgamesh, which incorporated the Humbaba story, had became known throughout the Near East: fragments of cuneiform tablets recording the tales are known from Megiddo in Palestine, Emar on the Euphrates, south of Carchemish, and Hattusas, capital of the Hittites in Anatolia.
Here the slaying of Humbaba is incorporated into a scene where figures are depicted as Egyptian pharaohs.
W.G. Lambert, 'Gilgamesh in literature and art: the second and first millennia' in Monsters and demons in the anc (Mainz, 1987)
A.H. Layard, Discoveries in the ruins of Ni (London, J. Murray, 1853)