Stela of Ashurbanipal

Neo-Assyrian, about 668-655 BC
From Borsippa, southern Iraq

An Assyrian king carrying a basket on his head

One of the duties of a Mesopotamian king was to care for the gods and restore or rebuild their temples. Much earlier, in the late third millennium BC, rulers in southern Mesopotamia depicted themselves carrying out this pious task in the form of foundation pegs, such as the figure of Ur-Nammu, also in The British Museum (reigned 2112-2095 BC).

It is possible that the Assyrians discovered similar figurines while they were rebuilding the ruins of Babylon and Borsippa in the 670s and 660s BC. On this stela, Ashurbanipal (669-631 BC), wearing the Assyrian king's head-dress, is shown in the pose of earlier kings, lifting up a large basket of earth for the ritual moulding of the first brick. The cuneiform inscription around and over the king's body records his restoration of Ezida, the Temple of Nabu, god of writing, in Borsippa. It celebrates the qualities of the king and implores Nabu's favours. It also asks for a blessing on the king of Babylon, Shamash-shum-ukin (667-648 BC), who was also Ashurbanipal's brother. It ends with curses on anybody who destroys or damages this monument.

By 650 BC, after the creation of this monument, Shamash-shum-ukin had rebelled against Ashurbanipal. However, the Assyrian forces captured Babylon and Shamash-shum-ukin killed himself.

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More information


British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)


Height: 39.000 cm
Width: 15.500 cm
Depth: 13.000 cm

Museum number

ME 90865



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