human headed winged bull

A Recently Destroyed 7th* Century BC Assyrian Statue,  Photo c. 1850

:(  Unfortunately, by now I’m sure most of you have heard the heartbreaking news that this statue and many others at the Mosul Museum fell victim to the deplorable practice of iconoclasm by the Islamic State this week.

This photo is from the mid-19th century excavation of the colossal statues at the Nergal Gate of the ancient city of Nineveh. This statue was one of two winged bull-men (aka lamassu ) that guarded one of several entrances to Nineveh dated to the time of King Sennacherib*. Named for the Mesopotamian god Nergal, the gate was possibly used for ceremonial purposes since it is the only known gate flanked by stone sculptures of winged bull-men, which were believed to be protective deities. 

*Some news sources (e.g. BBC,  and Al Jazeera) are dating these statues to the 9th century BC whereas others say the 7th century BC (e.g. CBS,  ABC). I am not certain which is correct.

Archaeological Victims of ISIS Rise Again, as Replicas in Rome

ROME — A statue of a human-headed winged bull from the Northwest Palace in Nimrud, Iraq, that was bulldozed by the Islamic State last year to great outcry has been faithfully recreated using modern technology and put on exhibit at the Colosseum in Rome to spur discussion of the possible reconstruction of war-torn archaeological sites.

Full-scale reconstructions were also made of two damaged Syrian sites: the archive room of Ebla and a portion of a ceiling from the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, as examples of how conflict can devastate a nation’s fragile heritage.

“Nimrud was the first place to be destroyed,” said Frances Pinnock, the co-director of the Ebla expedition, the most important Italian archaeological expedition to Syria. “It was a palace known as the Versailles of the ancient Near East, and so it was chosen because it was symbolic.” Read more.

2

Egyptianized Near Eastern Hematite Cylinder Seal, Syria, 1820-1730 BC

In the area that corresponds roughly with the boundaries of modern Syria and Lebanon, there arose in the first half of the second millennium BC many centers of culture that maintained contact with lands both to the east and the west. The seals produced in this region—in a number of local styles—often bear imagery and stylistic features that relate them to Egyptian and Aegean art.

The main scene on this cylinder seal depicts a worshiper (probably the king) before a divinity, who holds a vase (?) and is seated above two human-headed bulls. The god is enthroned on a stool with lion legs of a type known from actual contemporary remains in wood and ivory from both Egypt and Anatolia. The smaller images include a sphinx wearing an Egyptian crown, attacking an antelope; an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life; a winged solar disc representing Shamash over a recumbent crescent moon representing Sin; two eight pointed stars representing Ishtar; a kneeling bird-man under a plait-like motif which probably represents subterranean fresh water; a quadruped and a monkey are in front of the king, possibly as sacrificial offerings to the seated god.