Stone panels from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal

Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 645 BC

The killing of lions

These wall panels probably originally decorated one of the private apartments of King Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-630 BC). The panels are divided into registers which read from right to left. In the top register a lion is released from its cage, advances, and is hit with arrows shot by the king in his full regalia. In the central register a horseman, guarded by spearmen in a chariot, distracts a lion. The king comes up from the left and grabs the lion's tail. The accompanying caption explains that the king is about to strike the lion with a mace.

In the lower register musicians play in front of a tall stand for burning incense and a table of food. Ashurbanipal pours a libation, which the caption tells us is wine. Behind him stand his bodyguard and attendants, who hold fans and towels.

Ashurbanipal records in his inscriptions that in his time there was lots of rain in Assyria and lions thrived. He clearly took great pleasure in the traditional royal sport of killing lions, though they were often captured first, or possibly even reared in captivity.

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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: 160.000 cm (124886)
Width: 169.000 cm (124886)
Depth: 17.000 cm (124886)
Height: 160.000 cm (124886)
Width: 169.000 cm (124886)
Depth: 17.000 cm (124886)

Museum number

ME 124886;ME 124887


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


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