Special topics in art history
Course: Special topics in art history > Unit 1Lesson 11: Backstories: additional endangered objects and sites
- Rock-art sites of Tadrart Acacus: backstory
- Warka Vase
- The Great Pyramids of Giza
- Thutmose, Bust of Nefertiti: backstory
- Cuneiform tablets: backstory
- Lamassu: backstory
- Capitoline Brutus: backstory
- Temple of Portunus
- Nasca Geoglyphs
- The Paracas Textile
- Bamiyan Buddhas
- Mogao caves at Dunhuang
- Saint Trophime, Arles
- Machu Picchu
- Aztec feathered headdress: backstory
- The Last Supper
- The Taj Mahal
- Great Mosque of Djenné
- Benin Plaque: Equestrian Oba and Attendants
- Wagner, Postal Savings Bank
by Dr. Naraelle Hohensee
Winged human-headed bull (lamassu or shedu), Neo-Assyrian Period, reign of Sargon II (721-705 B.C.E.) Khorsabad, ancient Dur Sharrukin, Assyria, Iraq, gypseous alabaster, 4.20 x 4.36 x 0.97 m, excavated by P.-E. Botta 1843-44 (Musée du Louvre) (photo: Dr. Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The lamassu in museums today (including the Louvre, shown in our video, as well the British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, and others) came from various ancient Assyrian sites located in modern-day Iraq. They were moved to their current institutional homes by archaeologists who excavated these sites in the mid-19th century. However, many ancient Assyrian cities and palaces—and their gates, with intact lamassu figures and other sculptures—remain as important archaeological sites in their original locations in Iraq.
In 2015, a chilling video circulated online, showed people associated with ISIS destroying ancient artifacts in both the museum in Mosul, Iraq and at the nearby ancient archaeological site of ancient Nineveh. Their targets included the lamassu figures that stood at one of the many ceremonial gates to the ancient city, which was a major capital of the Assyrian empire. Scholars believe that this particular gate, which dates to the reign of Sennacherib around 700 B.C.E., was built to honor the god Nergal, an Assyrian god of war and plague who ruled over the underworld. Islamic State representatives claimed that these statues were “idols” that needed to be destroyed. The video features footage of men using jackhammers, drills, and sledgehammers to demolish the lamassu.
The Nergal gate is only one of many artifacts and sites that have been demolished or destroyed by ISIS over the past decade. Despite the existence of other examples in museums around the world, the permanent loss of these objects is a permanent loss to global cultural heritage and to the study of ancient Assyrian art and architecture.
P. G. Finch, “The Winged Bulls at the Nergal Gate of Nineveh,” Iraq, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring, 1948), pp. 9-18 (read for free online via JSTOR)
Want to join the conversation?
- I have an image of a Lamassu as the background on my work desktop. News that these amazing statues are being demolished is disheartening. Save the Lamassu before they are extinct!(10 votes)
- is the statue of nebugabnezzer still exsist(5 votes)
- The lamassu destruction is a good argument for artifacts to be distributed in museums throughout the world. If there is political or religious destruction of artifacts in one region, collections from that region in distant museums will not be affected.(3 votes)
- Is there a reason to believe all of the bible things?(1 vote)
- Many people have believed them (but that's not a reason).
They can be helpful (but that's not a reason, either).
I was trained as a child to believe them all. (nope, that's not a reason, either).
I was in my 20s when I began exploring religious belief not backed by "bible facts". I found that I could hold onto the theological stuff for its own good, without needing chapters and verses. I was set free, and have been on THAT journey for more than 4 decades now.(1 vote)