Photo Essay: British Museum Part 3: The Assyrian Exhibit
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta
The Assyrians were, for a very long period of time, the big cheeses of the Middle East. Based around Iraq, their rule at one time extended into Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Northern Saudi Arabia, Levant, Israel, Sinai, Egypt into Nubia. Pretty large for that time, I must admit. They made some expansive sculptures and statues, the British Museum has some excellent collections of statuary, sculpture and tomb carvings.
This is a gallery showing carved stone panels from the Palace of King Sennacherib (704-681 BC) at Nineveh, Iraq. Very long gallery, they show transportation of sculptures, hunting scenes, military battles, etc.
Then we have these two colossal statues of winged human headed lions which were placed either side of the main entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC). They look pretty imposing, eh? Check out the beards, curled to an inch of their lives. Very imposing. And after lots of research and poking around, turns out that the reason for these chaps to curl their beards was as a identification mark, to distinguish themselves from their neighbours as the Egyptians, the Israelites, etc didn't do the beard thing at all. The photograph on the right shows that the rest of the sculpture is covered with cuneiform writing about the king and his deeds.
This is a black obelisk of Shalmaneser III which records his military campaigns and the tribute he got from Iran, Israel, Turkey and Iraq.
Two more panels which would be placed either side of a doorway, with a winged spirit or human figure usually carrying a magic cone and bucket. These would ward off evil, guard the king and inhabitants. The Assyrian Exhibit is ok, fairly interesting but then, after coming from the Egyptian Exhibit, its not really that impressive. The full slide show is here. The next part relates to just one statue, that too tiny but of great import.