Stone panel from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal

Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, 645 BC

Lions in a garden

This alabaster wall panel was originally set into the mud brick walls of the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC). The relief was originally painted.

This is perhaps the most attractive of all Assyrian sculptures. Despite the scenes of Ashurbanipal hunting and killing lions which were displayed nearby (for example, 'The Dying Lion'), this scene suggests some love for nature. Apparently the Assyrian kings did sometimes keep lions as pets, though it is likely that the offspring of this pair would have ended up in the hunting arena. The Mesopotamian lion, brought to extinction in the nineteenth century by the shotgun, was smaller than the African lion (one was compared to a 'large St Bernard dog').

The tree is possibly a cypress with vines growing through it. There are flowers, which may be lilies to left and right, and a plant with flowers like daisies grows behind the lioness.

The damage to the panel occurred when Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonian and Median armies in 612 BC. 

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More information


R.D. Barnett, Sculptures from the North Pala (London, 1976)

J.E. Curtis and J.E. Reade (eds), Art and empire: treasures from (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 98.000 cm
Width: 178.000 cm
Thickness: 10.000 cm (extant)

Museum number

ME 118914


The palace was excavated by H. Rassam (from 1853)


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