Stone relief from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room Z)

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

Protective spirit

This relief, carved on alabaster, was one of a pair which guarded an entrance into the private apartments of Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC), at his palace in Kalhu, the capital of Assyria. The protection of the entrance to a building using magic was a long-standing tradition in Mesopotamia. Images of supernatural creatures were sometimes buried under doorways or set up at the entrances of palaces and temples. Their magical strength was intended to frighten away evil demons.

The figure of a man with wings may be the supernatural creature called an apkallu in cuneiform texts. He wears a tasselled kilt and a fringed and embroidered robe. His curled moustache, long hair and beard are typical of figures of this date. Across the body runs Ashurnasirpal's 'Standard Inscription', which records some of the king's titles and achievements and is repeated on many of his stone reliefs. The inscription was cut after the figure was carved, as some of the details of decoration on the dress have been chiselled through. The significance of the goat and giant ear of corn that the figure carries is not known.

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More information

Bibliography

S.M. Paley and R.P. Sobolewski, The reconstruction of the reli (Mainz am Rhein, 1987)

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

Dimensions

Height: 224.000 cm
Width: 127.000 cm
Thickness: 12.000 cm (extant)

Museum number

ME 124561

WCO23919

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

Location

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