Stone statue of a monkey
Middle Assyrian, about 1243-1207
From Kar Tukulti Ninurta, northern Iraq
Monkeys were not native to Mesopotamia and would have been imported, probably from Africa or India. Mesopotamian kings prided themselves on the collections of exotic animals they acquired as booty or tribute, and the most 'exotic' were sometimes commemorated in stone. Monkeys were popular animals in Mesopotamian art; they are often depicted playing musical instruments, perhaps representing animals accompanying travelling entertainers.
This statue, broken in three pieces, was found in 1914 in a palace at the site of Kar Tukulti-Ninurta in the kingdom of Assyria. This city was a new foundation by King Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243-1207 BC) and included a number of palaces and temples decorated with elaborate wall paintings. Tukulti-Ninurta conquered Babylonia and much of north Mesopotamia, during his reign, but towards the end he was imprisoned in the new city by his son, Ashur-nadin-apli (1206-1203 BC), and all his military achievements came to nothing.
A. Khurt, The ancient Near East c. 3000- (London, Routledge, 1995)
A. Spycket, '"Le carnaval des animaux": on some musician monkeys from the ancient Near East', Iraq-8, 60 (1998), pp. 1-10
T. Eickhoff, Kar Tukulti Ninurta. Eine Mitt (Berlin, 1985)