Stone panels from the South-West Palace of Sennacherib (Room 28, nos. 7-9)

Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 640-615 BC

One of the last Assyrian relief carvings

This carved alabaster slab is part of one of the last series of sculptures carved at Nineveh to decorate the interior walls of the palace of King Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 BC). It originally lined a corridor.

The scene depicted on the slab is part of a story that began on one side of the corridor, with a battle in southern Mesopotamia. The region is known as Babylonia or Chaldaea, after the local Chaldaean tribal groups. This scene was placed on the opposite wall of the corridor. It shows careful records being kept of captured goods which the soldiers are piling up. The objects appear to float in the air, due to the sculptors limitations in dealing with perspective. The palm trees indicate the southern landscape.

One scribe hold a hinged writing board covered in wax. Actual examples of the boards have been excavated at the Assyrian city of Nimrud. Information could be recorded and then the wax melted and reused. The bearded man is writing in a scroll, probably in Aramaic - the main spoken language of the Near East. Alternatively, he may be a war artist, recording details of the campaign for use by sculptors creating reliefs such as this one back in Nineveh.

It is ironic that these reliefs, among the last Assyrian sculptures to be made, show the conquest of a people who would soon be rampaging through the cities of Assyria itself.

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More information


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


Height: 10.660 m (total)
Width: 2.130 m (total)

Museum number

ME 124955


The palace was excavated by A.H. Layard (1846-51) and by many later archaeologists


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