Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B, Panel 20)

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

The king hunting bulls

Shown here is the upper part of a panel on the wall close to the royal throne. The warrior in the chariot is Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC), wearing the distinctive royal hat. He killed the bull by grasping it by the horns and driving his sword into its neck. It was a familiar convention in Mesopotamian art to show a fallen enemy or victim beneath the horses drawing the victor's chariot.

An armed horseman rides behind the king, holding another horse. While by this date horses had been bred which could support a rider, the Assyrians had not mastered the art of fighting and controlling the horse at the same time. Instead they rode in pairs, one man fighting with spear or bow, while the other controlled the horses.

The royal sport of hunting had a very ancient tradition in Mesopotamia. Bulls represented the wild forces of nature which it was the king's duty to control. Images of kings and heroes fighting wild animals are known over two thousand years before this relief was carved.

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More information

Bibliography

A.H. Layard, Nineveh and its remains, 2 volumes (London, J. Murray, 1849)

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

A.H. Layard, The monuments of Nineveh (London, J. Murray, 1849)

Dimensions

Height: 90.000 cm
Width: 2.250 m
Thickness: 10.000 cm (extant)

Museum number

ME 124532

WCO23918

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

Location

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