Terracotta plaque showing a bull-man holding a post

Old Babylonian, about 2000-1600 BC
From Mesopotamia

This plaque depicts a creature with the head and torso of a human but the horns, lower body and legs of a bull. Though similar figures are depicted earlier in Iran, they are first seen in Mesopotamian art around 2500 BC, most commonly on cylinder seals, and are associated with the sun-god Shamash. The bull-man was usually shown in profile, with a single visible horn projecting forward. However, here he is depicted in a less common form; his whole body above the waist, shown in frontal view, shows that he was intended to be double-horned. He may be supporting a divine emblem and thus acting as a protective deity.

Baked clay plaques like this were mass-produced using moulds in southern Mesopotamia from the second millennium BC. While many show informal scenes and reflect the private face of life, this example clearly has magical or religious significance.

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More information

Bibliography

British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)

J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

Dimensions

Length: 12.800 cm
Width: 7.000 cm

Museum number

ME 103225

WCO2652

Location

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