Height: 210.820 cm
Width: 284.480 cm
Room 9: Assyria: Nineveh
Stone panel from the South-West Palace of Sennacherib (Court 6)
Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 700-681 BC
The movement of a stone sculpture from the quarries
This panel continues the narrative from the previous panel in the series that originally decorated two sides of a courtyard at King Sennacherib's palace. Instead of the usual scenes of warfare, they show the transport of a human-headed winged bull, or lamassu, part of Sennacherib's construction work. Here, the lamassu is being levered forward, hauled on its way to Nineveh. Written documents show that Sennacherib took a close interest in the progress of building and decoration; he proudly describes the palace as one 'without rival'. He also made use of senior officials including experts in magic who knew how to position magical guardian figures for maximum protection.
Sennacherib planned to transform the ancient city of Nineveh into a place that would astonish the civilized world. A system of canals and stone aqueducts brought water from forty or fifty miles to the parks, orchards and allotments of the city.
This relief helps us to reconstruct ancient quarrying and building techniques. The stone was cut with great iron saws, which can be seen being carried by some of the workers on the relief. Examples of such saws have been excavated at Nimrud. The colossal figures (weighing up to sixteen tons) were roughed out to reduce their weight, but the final carving was done after it was set in position, as was done with the carved relief panels.
J.M. Russell, Sennacheribs palace without ri (University of Chicago Press, 1991)
J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)