Ivory plaque depicting a winged sphinx


British Museum

British Museum

The carved ivories from Nimrud (9th-8th century BC) are recognised as being the most important and spectacular discovery of the British expedition to the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nimrud in northern Iraq between 1949-1963. Fort Shalmaneser is the name given to the royal building in the south-east corner of the mound consisting of a palace, storerooms and arsenal for the Assyrian army. This openwork ivory plaque may originally have been part of a piece of luxury furniture which came to Assyria as part of tribute or booty.

The sphinx is carved in an Egyptianising style. He wears the Upper and Lower crown of Egypt and hanging from his chest is an apron with a projecting uraeus (rearing cobra) worn by Egyptian pharaohs. The Egyptianising or ‘International’ style shows that the ivory was probably carved by a Phoenician craftsman on the coast of the Levant. Other objects decorated in this style (metal vessels for example) found widely in the Near East and the Mediterranean clearly deeply influenced local products and decorative traditions.

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  • Title: Ivory plaque depicting a winged sphinx
  • Date Created: -900/-700
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 6.90cm; Width: 7.75cm; Thickness: 1.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Subject: sphinx; crown; plant
  • Registration number: 1963,1214.8
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Fort Shalmaneser
  • Period/culture: Phoenician
  • Material: ivory
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from British School of Archaeology, Iraq. Division of Finds Department of Antiquities of Iraq


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