Height: 294.000 cm (approx.)
Weight: 4000.000 kg (approx.)
Gift of H.M. King Edward VII
Stela of Ashurnasirpal II
Neo-Assyrian, about 883-859 BC
From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
The Assyrian king worshipping gods and recording his achievements
This freestanding gypsum monument was erected by King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC). During his reign this form of commemorative sculpture appears in this form. Stelas were erected inside and outside temples, both within the empire and the neighbouring lands which recognized Assyrian rule. This example, which weighs over four tons, was erected outside the Temple of Ninurta (a god of hunting and warfare) built by the king in his newly established capital of Kalhu.
Most stelas, as here, depict the king before the symbols of his principal gods. He extends his right hand, with the forefinger outstretched, as if he has just snapped his fingers. This is the typical Assyrian gesture of respect and supplication towards the gods. The gods are shown in symbolic form. The helmet with horns represents the supreme god Ashur; the winged disc stands for the sun god, Shamash; the crescent within a full circle is the emblem of the moon god, Sin; the fork is the thunderbolt of the storm god, Adad; and a star, the planet Venus, signifies Ishtar, goddess of love and war. The king wears a row of similar symbols on his chest, with a Maltese cross for the sun. The inscription has a prayer to the gods, a description of the rebuilding of Kalhu and ends with curses on anybody who damages the stela.
A.K. Grayson, Assyrian royal inscriptions (Wiesbaden, O. Harrassowitz, 1972)
J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)