Ivory Sphinx from Nimrud

Ivory Sphinx from Nimrud

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Kult & Geschichte

Die Reliefszene auf der Vorderseite zeigt eine Löwin, die einen Nubier angreift. Die Löwin trägt auf der Stirn einen Kreis aus Lapislazuli. Der Nubier trägt Armreife, das Haar und der ägyptisierende Schurz sind vergoldet. Der Hintergrund besteht aus einem dichten Geflecht aus Lotus- und Papyruspflanzen. Die Blüten sind mit Karneol und Lapislazuli eingelegt.
Die Arbeit stammt wahrscheinlich aus einer phönizischen Werkstatt.

Das Gegenstück befand sich im Irakisches Nationalmuseum von Bagdad. Es wird seit 2003, nachdem das Museum geplündert wurde, vermisst.

Nimrud, Nord-Westpalast
Elfenbeinschnitzereien aus Phönizien
16 x 13,3 cm

Diese Schnitzerei gehört zur Gruppe "Frau im Fenster", welche wohl Frauen darstellt, die wirtschaftlich von Männern unabhängig waren und meistens wohl Priesterinnen waren, deren Schutzgottheit Inanna/Ishtar war. Die "Frau im Fenster" hieß Kilili sie war eine kleinere babylonische Gottheit, verstand sich als kultische Dirne und war ein Aspekt des Inanna/Ischtar-Kultes. Die "Mona Lisa von Nimrud" war im Laufe der Zeit von ihrem Fenster getrennt worden.

Ivory Sphinx from Nimrud - History

Almost 3,000 years ago, the rulers and wealthy elite of the powerful Assyrian empire adorned their chairs, stools and other furniture--even their chariots along with horses' halters and blinkers--with exquisitely decorated pieces of elephant ivory produced mostly by expert Levantine craftsmen.

With the collapse of the empire in 612 BC, and the sacking and burning of royal palaces by conquering Babylonians and Medes, the ivory disappeared under the rubble--not to be seen again until archaeologists began excavating it in the mid-19th century.

The British Museum in London has recently saved for the nation a horde of the so-called Nimrud ivories--1,000 intact pieces, 5,000 fragments--after a public fund-raising campaign that netted £1.17 million. That was about a third of the value of the ivories, and another third of the collection was donated by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. The remaining third is expected to be returned to Iraq.

The Nimrud ivories, named for the Assyrian capital where they were found in modern Iraq, are regarded by the museum as probably the most important British archeological find in the Middle East.

"Every aspect of the decoration of the ivories reveals just wonderful craftsmanship," Nigel Tallis, the museum's Middle East curator, told about 300 museum members in a lecture. "Even now a full analysis of the significance of the collection has barely begun. Its acquisition by the museum is a cause for celebration."

The first group of ivories, dating from the 9th and 8th centuries BC, was excavated by the archaeologist Austin Henry Layard in 1845 at Nimrud, just south of Mosul on the Tigris River. They came from the ruins of the palace of Shalmaneser III, who ruled from 859 to 824 B.C., and more came to light a few years later.

But it was not until 1949-63 that the next discoveries were made by a team led by the celebrated archeologist Max Mallowan, second husband of the crime novelist Agatha Christie. Many of the ivories had been thrown into wells after having been stripped of colored glass, semi-precious stones and gold leaf that adorned them. A few of the ivories retain fragments of glass inlays.

Christie herself went on the expedition and helped photograph and preserve many of the ivories. In her autobiography, she wrote that she cleaned them using a fine knitting needle, an orange stick and a pot of face cream. Mallowan also credited her with coming up with the idea of placing newly excavated pieces under damp towels to prevent cracking.

"Oh what a beautiful spot it was," the novelist wrote. "The Tigris just a mile away, and on the great mound of the Acropolis, big stone Assyrian heads poked out of the soil. In one place there was the enormous wing of a great genie."

It was this aspect of the story--a woman writing novels in the morning and helping recover buried treasure in the afternoon--that caught the imagination of the British public and probably accounted in part for the enthusiastic response to the museum's fund appeal.

Tallis is particularly intrigued by the craftsmanship that went into incising and decorating some tiny pieces of ivory, no more than 1.5 or 2 centimeters (0.6 or 0.8 of an inch) high. The craftsmen, he said, must have been very young and probably were unable to go on working after their eyesight became damaged by the delicate task of incising such minute pieces.

The ivories depict bulls, lions, griffins, wild goats, serpents, fighting heroes, flowers and geometric designs. A few were decorated in Assyria, but most came from the Levant and are believed to have been brought to Nimrud as war booty or imported as luxury goods. There is also an Egyptian influence in some of the pieces, for example those representing the sphinx and those using imitation hieroglyphs that have no apparent meaning.

The ivory came from Syrian elephants, endemic in the Middle East in ancient times, but by the 8th century BC they had been hunted to extinction and later ivory may have been imported from India.

The collection was long ago divided between Iraq and Britain, and those that were assigned to Britain were put in storage at the British Museum but not displayed. Many of the ivories at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad were looted or damaged after the American-led invasion in 2003, when US troops failed to secure the museum's contents. Some were also stored in a Baghdad bank vault but were damaged by water when the building was shelled.

Tallis said it is highly likely that there are more ivories buried in the Iraqi soil and awaiting discovery.

The British Museum has recently put some of its collection on permanent display and intends to make others available for traveling exhibitions.


The ivories comprise plaques decorated in relief with intricate carvings of sphinxes, lions, serpents, people, flowers and geometric motifs, as well as carvings of female heads and female figurines. They were carved in various locations across the Ancient Near East, including Egypt, modern Syria and Lebanon, with relatively few carved locally. [3] The ivory used to make these objects would originally have been derived from Syrian elephants which were endemic in the Middle East in ancient times, but by the 8th century BC the Syrian elephant had been hunted close to extinction, and ivory for later objects would have had to be imported from India, [4] or, more likely, Africa. [2]

The ivory plaques are thought to have been used to decorate chariots, furniture and horse trappings, and would originally have been covered in gold leaf or ornamented with semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli. [5] Some pieces still preserve remnants of gold leafing. Many were already centuries old when put in storage and may have fallen out of fashion by that time. The gold may have been removed from the ivories before they were put in storage, [6] or it may have been taken by the Babylonians when they sacked and razed Nimrud in 612 BC. [5]

Some of the ivories have Phoenician letters engraved on their back, which it is thought may have been used as guides to the assembly of pieces onto the furniture to which the ivories were attached. The presence of Phoenician letters on the ivories suggests that they were the product of Phoenician craftsmen. [7]

In addition to plaques, many small ivory carvings of female heads have been found at Nimrud, most only one or two inches in height, but a few over 5 inches tall. Many of these heads wear a flat cap which is very similar to the flat caps depicted on much earlier ivories from the Tel Megiddo site in modern Israel. [8] Another common carved form found at Nimrud comprises figurines of two naked females joined back to back, which are thought to have been used either as handles for fans or mirrors, or as a decorative element on furniture. [8]

The plaques show a wide variety of themes, some of which exhibit a pure Assyrian style, [4] and some of which show Egyptian influence, with engravings of Egyptian people or gods, and even Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, the Egyptian themes are often misconstrued, and the hieroglyphs do not form valid names, so they would seem to be debased imitations of Egyptian art. [9]

A far greater number of ivories were found at Nimrud than at any other Assyrian site, and it is thought that they had been brought to Nimrud as booty or imported as luxury goods from cities on the Mediterranean coast. Some centuries later it seems that these objects fell out of fashion, and were put into storage. [6]

Layard (1845) Edit

The first group of ivories was excavated from the site of the palace of Shalmaneser III (ruled 859–824 BC) at the Assyrian capital of Nimrud. The palace was rediscovered in 1845 by Austin Henry Layard, on the very first day of his excavations on the second day, he made the first discovery of ivories. [10]

Loftus (1854–1855) Edit

More ivories were found during William Kennett Loftus's excavations in 1854–1855. They were found in a group of buildings labelled the "South-East Palace" or "Burnt Palace" Loftus described the circumstances of the discovery in a letter to the Journal of Sacred Literature in February 1855:

The S.E. Palace at Nimroud has just yielded a large collection of beautiful ivories, relics of a throne or furniture, &c. They have been fitted together by means of rivets, slides, and grooves – a complete Assyrian puzzle, and somewhat dangerous to sit on! Many exhibit traces of gilding and enamel, and were probably broken up for the inlaid gold and jewels with which they were once adorned. There is a decided Egypto-Assyrian character about the whole collection, perfect Egyptian heads being mixed with Assyrian Bulls and Lions. The heads were very fine indeed. Some of the articles were maces, dagger-handles, or portions of chairs and tables (for we have undoubted evidence of the Assyrians using such.) Figures back to back form a shaft, and support a flower-headed capital. There are also boxes, and a vase – all elaborately carved. The Assyrians were adepts in veneering, the layers being highly ornamented with sacred emblems and lion-hunts. Phoenician inscriptions are found on two of three articles. They were found strewed at the bottom of a chamber among wood ashes. They had escaped the flames, but are blackened from lying among smouldering wood. I have got up a horse-load of objects, and am fitting them together as fast as possible, preparatory to boiling them in gelatine. The whole room is not yet explored, as the earth must first be removed from above. I propose going down to-morrow. [11]

Mallowan (1949–1963) Edit

Further discoveries were made between 1949 and 1963 by a team from the British School of Archaeology in Iraq led by the archaeologist Max Mallowan. [5] Mallowan found thousands of ivories, many of which were discovered at the bottom of wells into which they had apparently been thrown when the city was sacked, either in the turmoil that followed the death of Sargon II in 705 BC or when Nineveh fell and was destroyed in 612 BC. [10] Mallowan's wife was the famous British crime novelist, Agatha Christie (1890–1976), who was fascinated with archaeology, and who accompanied her husband on the Nimrud excavations. [12] Christie helped photograph and preserve many of the ivories found during the excavations, explaining in her autobiography that she cleaned the ivories using a fine knitting needle, an orange stick and a pot of face cream. [6]

The collection of ivories uncovered by Mallowan were divided between Iraq and Britain, where they remained at the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (later to become the British Institute for the Study of Iraq) until 1987. [3] They were then put in storage at the British Museum until 2011, but were not put on display. [6] Many of the Iraqi-held ivories have been lost or damaged. Following the Iraq War 2003 the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad was looted, and many of the ivories kept there were damaged or stolen. Other ivories that were stored in a bank vault in Baghdad were damaged by water when the building was shelled. [6]

In March 2011, the British Museum purchased one third of the Mallowan ivories (comprising 1,000 complete ivories and 5,000 fragments) from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq for £1.17 million, following a public fundraising campaign that raised £750,000 in six months, and with the support of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund. [6] [3] This is the second most expensive purchase by the British Museum since the end of the Second World War. [ citation needed ]

In addition to the purchase, the British Institute for the Study of Iraq has also donated another third of its collection to the British Museum in recognition of the storage of the collection by the museum over the previous 24 years. It is anticipated that the remaining third of the collection will be returned to Iraq sometime in the future. [5] [3] A selection of the ivories will be put on display at the British Museum from 14 March 2011. [5]

Oates (1957–1963) Edit

The largest single ivory find was made between 1957–1963 when a British School team led by David Oates discovered a room at the Nimrud palace that was dubbed the "ivory room", which had apparently served as the main storage centre for ivory objects amassed by the Assyrian kings. Subsequent excavations by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities unearthed still more ivories. [13]

Other discoveries Edit

In recent years excavations by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities have unearthed more ivories. [13]

Did King Jehu Kill His Own Family?

BAR, Jan/Feb 1995
by Tammi Schneider

Israelites in Exile

BAR, Nov/Dec 2003
by K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud (known in antiquity as Kalhu) lies in the Nineveh plains on the northeast bank of the Tigris River, 20 miles from Mosul in northern Iraq. When King Ashurnasirpal II ascended to the throne (r. 883� B.C.E.), he relocated the royal court from Assur to Nimrud, establishing it as the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and rebuilding it completely, with lavish temples and a palace funded by his successful conquests. Nimrud continued to be an important city after the royal court moved to Nineveh in 705 B.C.E.

Between the late 10th and early sixth centuries B.C.E., the Neo-Assyrian Empire came to control large swaths of territories, becoming what some consider the world’s first true empire. At its peak, the empire’s boundaries included the entire modern Middle East along with much of modern Turkey, North Africa and Central Asia. The Neo-Assyrian kings amassed booty and tribute from all over the Near East, leaving us with extensive records.

In 1845, Austen Henry Layard became the first person to excavate Nimrud. He discovered Ashurnasirpal II’s royal palace guarded by colossal statues of human-headed bulls (lamassus) and decorated with elaborate wall reliefs depicting the ruler triumphant in hunting and conquest. As described in “Mad to See the Monuments” by Steven W. Holloway and “Past Perfect: Excavating Nimrud,” Victorian England went wild over the antiquities that came out of Nimrud and other sites Layard excavated in Iraq. Many of the reliefs and statues from Ashurnasirpal II’s North-West Palace are now on display in the British Museum and elsewhere in the world. The palace itself, however, has been demolished by ISIS militants.

Layard thought that the ruin called Nimrud was the Biblical Nineveh, where Jonah preached and which the prophet Nahum denounced. Layard, however, was incorrect. As we learn in “Uncovering Nineveh” by Deborah A. Thomas, Biblical Nineveh was later identified with a nearby ruin called Kuyunjik. In 1850, Henry Rawlinson interpreted an inscription on one of the buildings at Nimrud and identified the city as Biblical Calah (Genesis 10:11󈝸).

Explore some of the fascinating small finds that have come to light at Nimrud—intricately carved ivory objects, ivory and wooden writing boards and an ivory figurine that may depict a Nubian tribute-bearer—in “Well-Hidden Ivories Surface at Nimrud” by Alan Millard, “Recovered!” by Dorit Symington and “Worldwide: Nimrud, Iraq.”

A large black obelisk found at Nimrud shows an Israelite king identified as Jehu bringing tribute to Shalmaneser III. Even today, this is one of the few known references to an Israelite king outside of the Bible. In “Did King Jehu Kill His Own Family?” Tammi Schneider describes an interpretation that reconciles the Biblical text with an inscription on the famous Assyrian Black Obelisk. Assyrian art and inscriptions also corroborate the Assyrian incursions detailed in 2 Kings. As discussed in “Israelites in Exile” by K. Lawson Younger, Jr., reliefs and inscriptions from Nimrud record the ambitions of the Assyrian kings and the conquest and deportation of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.

Like any ancient site, Nimrud reveals a common human heritage: the human longing for power, wealth, beauty, learning and the divine, its dazzling accomplishments and its spectacular failures. Through global efforts to document and preserve the antiquities from Nimrud and other Assyrian cities, the once-mighty Assyrian Empire will be remembered for centuries to come.

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My work is driven by seeking the idiosyncratic features of Levantine artistic practices and ideology in an age of global exchange, building on my interests in the art, archaeology, and religion of the Bronze and Iron Ages Levant, the greater Mediterranean, and the ancient Near East. In addition, I research the affinity between Levantine text and image, and the historiography of ancient Near Eastern archaeology and museology. I am currently a research associate at the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto. Prior to that, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Bard Graduate Center, both in New York. In 2018 I graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where my PhD dissertation, titled “Local Art in the Southern Levant: Middle Bronze Age Bone-Inlaid Boxes of the Geometric Family”, analyzed unique bone-inlaid boxes found in southern Levantine elite tombs during the Middle Bronze Age as a case study for Egyptian-Levantine cultural connections and the development of Levantine art. During my PhD studies, I have been a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, New York, and Fribourg University, Switzerland. In 2017, my paper, “In Search for Identity”, revisiting Iron Age Levantine ivories, has won the Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize for best student paper in the field of Syro-Palestinian or biblical archaeology. Before that, my MA thesis, examining the use and manufacture of miniature vessels and seven-cupped bowls in the Middle Bronze Age cult site of Nahariya, Israel, was awarded with the Polonsky Prize.

The Mysterious Sphinx

The combination of alluring beauty with intoxicating destruction is typical of the femme fatale. The image of the femme fatale was a key figure at the turn of the century, a period that was characterised by trust and fear, inspired by the future and by decadence.

The sculpture rests on an onyx base and was presented on a pedestal that was designed by Henry van de Velde.

Come see this object with your own eyes in our collection Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

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Ivory Sphinx from Nimrud - History

&ldquoSumerian Tablet - Enki the Great Satan and God of the Abyse.

The figure of Lilith, the Sumerian terracotta tablet from Ur derived from the second millennium BC which is the oldest known representation of Lilith. On both sides of the characters are owls and lions nestled at the foot, and her hands hold the symbols of justice.

A cylinder seal impression detail-(on clay), Enkidu in battle.

The Chaldean Account of Genesis, Caption in book reads: "Izdubah and Heabani in conflict with the lion and bull".

His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, very similar to the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.

Enlil with his wife, Ninlil

This is Inanna on the Ishtar Vase in the Museum Louvre

Impression of the cylinder seal of Ḫa&scaronḫamer, ensi (high priest) of Sin at I&scaronkun-Sin ca. 2100 BC. The seated figure is probably king Ur-Nammu, bestowing the governorship on Ḫa&scaronḫamer, who is led before him by a lamma (protective goddess). Sin/Nanna himself is present in the form of a crescent.

Babylonian seal impressions

God Marduk

Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu after Anzu stole the Tablets of Destiny.

The symbols of Shamash (the sun), Sin (the moon) and Ishtar (star)

Cylinder Seal with Scorpion Man Shooting at Winged Creatures Middle Assyrian between 1400 and 1200 BC

Fragment of an Assyrian bas-reliefs of the presentation of the god Ashur

El depicted with two lions on the back of the handle of the Gebel el-Arak Knife

Goddess Astarte

Reconstruction of the appearance of one of the ziggurat Etemenanki in Babylon .

Choqa Zanbil, Ziggurat, Dur Untash, 13th century BC

A cylinder seal impression showing Enki and other gods. Enki is on the right. The gods are recognizable by their horned helmets. Note the "birdman" in the center. He is being led in a neck stock, his hands tied, to stand before the judgment of Enki.

The First Archaeologists

Tradition has it that the first recorded archaeological dig was operated by Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon who ruled between 555–539 BCE. Nabonidus' contribution to the science of the past is the unearthing of the foundation stone of a building dedicated to Naram-Sin, the grandson of the Akkadian king Sargon the Great. Nabonidus overestimated the age of the building foundation by 1,500 years—Naram Sim lived about 2250 BCE, but, heck, it was the middle of the 6th century BCE: there were no radiocarbon dates. Nabonidus was, frankly, deranged (an object lesson for many an archaeologist of the present), and Babylon was eventually conquered by Cyrus the Great, founder of Persepolis and the Persian empire.

To find the modern equivalent of Nabonidus, ne'er do well well-born British citizen John Aubrey (1626–1697) is a good candidate. He discovered the stone circle of Avebury in 1649 and completed the first good plan of Stonehenge. Intrigued, he wandered the British countryside from Cornwall to the Orkneys, visiting and recording all the stone circles he could find, ending up 30 years later with his Templa Druidum (Temples of the Druids)—he was misguided about the attribution.

Watch the video: Sphinxes. Monsters. Sphinx. 5e Dungeons and Dragons. Web DM (May 2022).