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Height: 61.000 cm
Width: 44.000 cm
Thickness: 13.000 cm
Excavated by Max von Oppenheim
Stone relief of a lion-hunt from the palace of King Kapara
Aramaean, mid-10th century BC
From Tell Halaf (ancient Guzana), north-east Syria
Symbolic of kingly power
This relief comes from the Aramaean city of Guzana (modern Tell Halaf, Old Testament Gozan). The city reached the peak of its prosperity around the middle of the tenth century BC, under King Kapara. The relief decorated the base of the south wall of Kapara's palace, which was lined with a series of 187 reliefs carved alternately in black basalt, like this one, and red-ochre tinted limestone. The cuneiform inscription between the lion's front paws reads 'Palace of Kapara, son of Hadianu'.
Some time around 1200 BC the Near East entered a period of major political change. The Hittite Empire, which had dominated eastern Anatolia and northern Syria, disappeared, and the kingdom of Assyria lost control of much of upper Mesopotamia. At this time, Assyrian texts mention Aramaeans as hostile bands of marauders. By 1000 BC, however, Aramaeans had seized power and a number of small states developed. Guzana was the capital of the Aramaean state of Bit Bahiani. It grew rich by controlling important trade routes as well as through the agricultural wealth of the region.
Alongside these Aramaean states were Neo-Hittite states, such as Carchemish, where similar forms of relief decoration have been discovered - an example is the basalt stela in The British Museum. The tradition was adopted by the Assyrians, who decorated the interior of their mud-brick palaces with large alabaster relief panels.
Perhaps the best-known example of a lion hunt is on a series of such reliefs from the palace at Nineveh. The theme was a very ancient one in the Near East, a symbol of royal power, known from at least the fourth millennium BC.
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
A. Khurt, The ancient Near East c. 3000- (London, Routledge, 1995)