Stela of Ashurbanipal

Neo-Assyrian, about 669-655 BC
From Babylon, southern Iraq

The king carrying a basket on his head

The city of Babylon had been destroyed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 689 BC but was rebuilt by his son Esarhaddon (reigned 680-669 BC) and grandson Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC). 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 copper figure of Ur-Nammu (reigned 2112-2095 BC), also in The British Museum.

It is possible that similar figurines were discovered in the ruins of Babylon during Ashurbanipal's rebuilding works. For on this stela, Ashurbanipal, 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 the shrine of Ea, the god of fresh water and wisdom, within the Temple of Marduk, the supreme deity of Babylon.

Find in the collection online

More information


M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)

D. Luckenbill, Ancient records of Assyria and (, 1927 (reprinted 1989))

J. Oates, Babylon-1 (London, Thames and Hudson, 1979)


Height: 37.000 cm
Width: 22.000 cm
Depth: 10.000 cm

Museum number

ME 90864 (1881.3-24.367)



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore