Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B, Panel 19)

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

A lion leaping at the King's chariot

This alabaster relief shows the royal sport of kings. Royal lion hunts were a very old tradition in Mesopotamia, with examples of similar scenes known as early as 3000 BC. Ashurnasirpal (reigned 883-859 BC) obviously took great pleasure from the activity as he claims in inscriptions to have killed a total of 450 lions.

The motif of Ashurnasirpal II or the crown prince hunting lions from his chariot is depicted three separate times upon the reliefs in his palace at Nimrud. Two are in The British Museum, the other in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin.

Unusually, here the relief here is composed as a single scene. Generally, the action moves in a narrative, from left to right, unhindered by the fallen lion which either crouches beneath the bodies of the galloping horses or turns back in a futile attempt to avoid certain death.  

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More information


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

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

P. Albenda, 'Ashurnasirpal II Lion Hunt Relief BM124534', Journal of Near Eastern Studie, 31 (1972)

J. Rawson, Animals in art (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)


Length: 2.240 m
Width: 88.650 cm

Museum number

ME 124534


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


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