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The Kurkh Stela

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • The Kurkh Stela
  • Description

    Limestone stela: a round-topped stele, of inferior limestone, much eroded. The king, Shalmaneser III, stands before four divine emblems: (1) the winged disk, the symbol of the god Ashur, or, as some hold, of Shamash; (2) the six-pointed star of Ishtar, goddess of the morning and evening star; (3) the crown of the sky-god Anu, in this instance with three horns, in profile; (4) the disk and crescent of the god Sin as the new and the full moon. On his collar the king wears as amulets (1) the fork, the symbol of the weather-god, Adad; (2) a segment of a circle, of uncertain meaning; (3) an eight-pointed star in a disk, here probably the symbol of Shamash, the sun-god; (4) a winged disk, again of the god Ashur. The gesture of the right hand has been much discussed and variously interpreted, either as the end of the action of throwing a kiss as an act of worship, or as resulting from cracking the fingers with the thumb, as a ritual act which is attributed to the Assyrians by later Greek writers, or as being simply a gesture of authority suitable to the king, with no reference to a particular religious significance. It seems fairly clear that the gesture is described in the phrase 'uban damiqti taraṣu', 'to stretch out a favourable finger', a blessing which corresponds to the reverse action, in which the index finger is not stretched out. There is a cuneiform inscription written across the face and base and around the sides of the stela.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 852BC (about)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 221 centimetres
    • Width: 87 centimetres
    • Depth: 23 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        face, base and round the sides
  • Curator's comments

    The cuneiform inscription written across the face and base and round the sides and back is published in Rawlinson, 'Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia', vol. iii, plates 7-8, and translated in Luckenbill, 'Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia', vol. i, pp. 211-13. For the circumstances of discovery see Gadd, 'The Stones of Assyria', p. 129 sub 118883.

    It was previously moulded as a commercially available cast (listed in the BM Facsimile Service, Catalogue of Replicas). The cast is listed as available in the British Museum Facsimile Service 'Catalogue of Replicas from British Museum collections' (n.d.), in the series "Assyrian Stelae".


  • Bibliography

    • Pritchard, J B 1954a fig. 443 (photograph) bibliographic details
    • Gadd 1936b p. 129 bibliographic details
    • Luckenbill D D 1926a paragraphs 232-254 (translation) bibliographic details
    • Smith 1938d plate 1 bibliographic details
    • Rawlinson H C & Smith G 1870a plates 7-8. (copy) bibliographic details
    • Grayson, RIMA 3 RIM.A. bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G6a

  • Exhibition history


    Nimroud Central Saloon (Trustees Papers, Dept of Oriental Antiquities etc: General Reports, 12 Nov 1863, no. 9532; application for permission to display here)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Found by Taylor October 1861; reached England 1862. Central Archive, Original Papers, 19 July 1862, no. 7451: letters regarding the removal of antiquities from Kurkh from Birch & Messrs Lynch. Central Archive, Book of Presents, 24 June 1863, no. 5213, described thus: "Two upright stelae with reliefs and inscriptions: from Kerk on the Tigris: sent by Mr Consul Taylor from Baghdad". Shipped by Messrs Lynch (WAA Corr).

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


Limestone stela; shows Shalmaneser III worshipping his gods; inscription.

Limestone stela; shows Shalmaneser III worshipping his gods; inscription.

Image description



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Object reference number: WCO26469

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