History of Assyrian palace sculptures, £9.99
Height: 20.320 cm
Excavataed by H.R. Hall
Room 56: Mesopotamia
From the Temple of Ninhursag, Tell al-'Ubaid, southern Iraq, About 2600-2400 BC
A guardian figure for the temple
This lion's head was discovered in 1919 at the small site of Tell al-'Ubaid, close to the remains of the city of Ur. Together with similar heads, mosaic pillars and figures of bulls, it was found at the foot of a mud brick platform which had originally supported a temple building dedicated to the goddess Ninhursag. Ninhursag was a mother goddess and her name means 'lady of the steppe land'.
The head, made of sheet copper over a bitumen core, was found beside the platform-stairs. It had been damaged by the weight of the brickwork which had probably fallen from the temple on top.
The lions may have decorated the façade of the temple, perhaps acting as guardian figures at the entrance. It was common in Mesopotamia for the doorways of monumental buildings to be protected by guardian figures and an image of a lion was often used for this purpose.
British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)
H.R. Hall and C.L. Woolley, Ur Excavations, vol. I: Al-Uba (London, Oxford University Press, 1927)