Stone panel from the South-West Palace of Sennacherib (Court 6, no. 64)

Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 704-681 BC

The movement of a stone sculpture from the quarries

This panel is one of a series that originally decorated two sides of a courtyard at the palace of King Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 BC). Instead of the usual scenes of warfare, they show the transport of a winged bull from quarry to palace, part of Sennacherib's construction work. Sennacherib was very proud of his buildings and describes the palace as one 'without rival'. The king himself is shown on the left, personally supervising the work.

The human-headed winged bull, known as a lamassu, will eventually stand as a guardian figure at an entrance to the palace. The figure has been roughed out in the quarry, and is being dragged across country on a sledge. Gangs of prisoners pull at the front, while another group insert a huge lever under the curved back of the sledge, and secure the lever with a wedge. They then swing on the lever in order to raise the back. Rollers are then placed underneath. The whole operation was directed by men with trumpets. They stand, not very helpfully, adding their weight to the load on the sledge!

At the bottom a man is using a shaduf, a kind of water-sweep still used in parts of the Middle East. Here, the water-course is being diverted so that the bull can pass without being bogged down.

The operation continues in another panel from the series.

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More information

Bibliography

J.M. Russell, Sennacheribs palace without ri (University of Chicago Press, 1991)

J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)

Dimensions

Height: 254.000 cm
Length: 1188.720 cm

Museum number

ME 124820

WCO26846

The palace was excavated by A.H. Layard (1846-51) and by many later archaeologists

Location

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