Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B, Panel 3)
Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, 883-859 BC
Assyrian soldiers defeat an enemy town
This panel shows part of a battle scene which depicts Assyrian soldiers defeating an enemy town. The man leading the attack can be identified as a high official by his ankle-length coat of scale armour. Such armour has been discovered at Nimrud where it had been left when the city was abandoned following the defeat by the Babylonians in 612 BC.
The vultures flying above the scene of destruction are closely associated with warfare in Mesopotamian art. They are depicted on stone monuments as early as the mid-third millennium BC, pecking at the dead bodies of enemy soldiers or carrying away heads or intestines. It is clear that large numbers of soldiers died on the battle field where the vultures took full advantage. However, the reliefs never show any Assyrian dead, only the bodies of the defeated enemy.
Ancient records tell us that thousands of soldiers were recruited into the Mesopotamian armies. At the time of these reliefs this happened every campaigning season, but by the eighth century BC the Assyrians had a standing army.
British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)
The palace was excavated by A.H. Layard (from 1845)