Collection online

plaque / furniture-fitting

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Ivory plaque of lioness mauling an African: the lioness is standing over her victim who has his knees drawn up and is lying back supported by his hands on the ground behind him. The lioness is biting his throat. The African wears a short kilt represented by gold leaf. The tight curls of hair are represented by gilt-topped ivory pegs. In the background are lotus and papyrus flowers, covered in gold leaf and inlaid with lapis lazuli and cornelian. There is also a spot of lapis lazuli inlay on the forehead of the lioness. On top of the plaque are two square mortice holes and an incised letter 'aleph' in West Semitic script, while on the base are two rectangular holes and another incised 'aleph'. This plaque was probably part of a piece of furniture.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 900BC-700BC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 10.35 centimetres
    • Width: 10.2 centimetres
    • Thickness: 2.45 centimetres (maximum)
    • Weight: 151 grammes
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        West Semitic
      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Comment

        The incised letter 'aleph'.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        West Semitic
      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Comment

        Two incised 'aleph' letters.
  • Curator's comments

    This plaque was found with an almost identical example which is now in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad. They were recovered at great risk to the excavators from the sludge at the bottom of an ancient well. From the same place came a fine collection of luxury items, including two splendid ivory heads popularly known as the 'Mona Lisa' and the 'Ugly Sister'. The two Lioness and African plaques probably come from an ornate piece of furniture, but it is not known exactly what. They show strong Phoenician influence, and were probably carved by a Phoenician craftsman. They are amongst the finest examples of ivory-carving to have survived, not just from Assyria but from the ancient world.

    M. E. L. Mallowan, ‘Nimrud and its Remains’ vol. 1 (London, 1966), 139-144, figs. 81-82, 84;
    R. D. Barnett, ‘A Catalogue of Nimrud Ivories in the British Museum’ (London, 1975), 190, O. I, frontispiece.


  • Bibliography

    • Curtis & Reade 1995a 91 bibliographic details
    • Curtis & Reade 1994a 91 bibliographic details
    • Barnett & Davies 1975a O.1; frontispiece bibliographic details
    • Barnett & Wiseman 1960a pp.60-61, no. 28 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G57/dc12

  • Exhibition history


    2014 - 2015 22 Sep - 5 Jan, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age'

    2008 21 Sept-2009 4 Jan, Boston, MFA, 'Art and Empire'

    2007 2 Apr-30 Sept, Alicante, MARQ Museum, 'Art and Empire'

    2006 1 Jul-7 Oct, Shanghai Museum, 'Art and Empire'

    Exhibition: "Art and Empire", Mexico City 1994

    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.41

    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.41

    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.41

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated in 1952.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • ND 2548 (excavation number)
COMPASS Title: Inlaid ivory panel of a lioness devouring a boy;Fight for survival


COMPASS Title: Inlaid ivory panel of a lioness devouring a boy;Fight for survival

Image description



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Object reference number: WCO23981

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