Limestone statue of a woman

Middle Assyrian, about 1070-1056 BC
From Nineveh, northern Iraq

Found in the remains of the Temple of Ishtar

Most monumental public art in Mesopotamia was designed to glorify the male king. As a result, images of woman are rare. This is the only known Assyrian statue of a naked woman. It is also unusual in being sculpted in the round. Few statues of this scale survive from ancient Mesopotamia.

Hormuzd Rassam discovered the statue in 1853 while excavating the remains of the Temple of Ishtar at the Assyrian city of Nineveh. Ishtar, a goddess of sexuality and warfare, was one of the most important deities in Mesopotamia and the city of Nineveh was one of her principal cult centres. This statue may represent one of the attendants of Ishtar in her role as goddess of love. A cuneiform inscription on the back states that it was erected by the Assyrian king Ashur-bel-kala (reigned 1073-1056 BC) for the enjoyment of his people.

The inscription ends with a curse on anyone who attempts to remove it, saying that the Sibitti, gods of the West, 'will afflict him with a snake bite'.

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More information


J.E. Reade, 'Later Mesopotamia', British Museum Magazine: the-9, 16 (Winter 1993), pp. 12-13

A.K. Grayson, Assyrian royal inscriptions-1 (Wiesbaden, O. Harrassowitz, 1976)


Museum number

ME 124963


Excavated by J.G. Taylor


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