Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B, panel 17 top)

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

The escape of enemies across a river

The panel probably shows an incident described in Ashurnasirpal's written accounts. In 878 BC he was campaigning down the river Euphrates and reached the enemy capital, the city of Suru in the land of Suhi. The enemy were forced into the river to save themselves. The relief shows two Assyrian archers, dressed in typical pointed helmets and short kilts, shooting at the enemy. The three men in the water are dressed in long robes, indicating that they are all people of high status rather than ordinary soldiers. One is swimming and has been hit by arrows. The other two are blowing into inflated animal-skins to help support themselves in the water. The one without a beard is probably a eunuch. Castrated men were widely employed at the ancient courts, not only to guard women, and many of them reached positions of high responsibility.

There are traces of Ashurnasirpal's 'Standard Inscription' at the bottom of the panel. This was repeated again and again across most of his reliefs. Henry Layard, excavating Nimrud in the nineteenth century, often had it cut away, if it did not cross the relief depiction, to reduce the weight of the slab for transport. 

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More information


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


Height: 88.000 cm
Width: 225.000 cm
Thickness: 9.500 cm (extant)

Museum number

ANE 124538


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


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