Terracotta plaque showing a bull-man holding a post


British Museum

British Museum

This plaque depicts a creature with the head and torso of a human but the horns, lower body and legs of a bull. Though similar figures are depicted earlier in Iran, they are first seen in Mesopotamian art around 2500 BC, most commonly on cylinder seals, and are associated with the sun-god Shamash. The bull-man was usually shown in profile, with a single visible horn projecting forward. However, here he is depicted in a less common form; his whole body above the waist, shown in frontal view, shows that he was intended to be double-horned. He may be supporting a divine emblem and thus acting as a protective deity. Baked clay plaques like this were mass-produced using moulds in southern Mesopotamia from the second millennium BC. While many show informal scenes and reflect the private face of life, this example clearly has magical or religious significance.

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  • Title: Terracotta plaque showing a bull-man holding a post
  • Date Created: -2000/-1600
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 12.80cm; Width: 7.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1910,1112.3
  • Period/culture: Old Babylonian
  • Material: fired clay
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Naaman, J J