Byzantine and Russian icons, £15.99
Height: 56.000 cm
Width: 42.000 cm
Excavated by Max von Oppenheim
Stone relief of a slinger from the palace of King Kapara
Aramaean, mid-10th century BC
From Tell Halaf (ancient Guzana), north-east Syria
Decoration for a royal palace
This relief of a sling thrower comes from the Aramaean city of Guzana (modern Tell Halaf, Old Testament Gozan). The site was excavated between 1911 and 1921 by Max von Oppenheim. The relief was one of 187 that originally decorated the base of the south wall of the palace of King Kapara. It is carved in black basalt. In the original arrangement black reliefs alternated with reliefs made of red-ochre tinted limestone.
Some time around 1200 BC the Near East entered a period of major political change. The Hittite Empire, which had dominated eastern Anatolia and north 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 decoration have been discovered - an example is the basalt stela also 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.
By the ninth century BC, Guzana had been absorbed into the empire of the re-emerging power of Assyria.
A. Khurt, The ancient Near East c. 3000- (London, Routledge, 1995)