Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Court D, no. 7)

Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, 883-859 BC

Tribute-bearers present the king with monkeys

This relief panel comes from the walls of the courtyard which led to the throne room of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). It was positioned next to a side-door through which his throne was sometimes visible.

Although many of the sculptures decorating the palace depicted magical spirits, away from the main central door and buttresses the scenes in the courtyard were secular. This scene was part of series showing a group of foreigners bringing tribute. Their dress shows that they were from the west. The turban suggests one man is from north-western Syria, his clenched fists are a token of submission. At this time Assyria was expanding westward to acquired booty and tribute from states in the geographical region of Syria. The man with monkeys may be Phoenician. They bring luxury goods and status symbols. The monkeys may have come from Egypt or from the lands of southern Arabia from which incense was imported.

Mesopotamian kings prided themselves in the collections of exotic animals they acquired as booty or tribute. Monkeys were popular animals in the art of Mesopotamia. They were often depicted playing musical instruments, perhaps representing animals accompanying travelling entertainers. 

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More information

Bibliography

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

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

Dimensions

Height: 2.630 m
Width: 2.490 m

Museum number

ME 124562

WCO26557

The palace was excavated by A.H. Layard (from 1845)

Location

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