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Sculpture and Late Assyrian Palace Essay

Since the beginning of human imagination, we have fabricated the idea of power through imaginative creatures for protection. The origin of this idea dates back before the death of Christ with “bas” relief animals attached to gate walls. During the Assyrian Era, Lamassu guarded the gates of Sargon II in Bet-Nahrain.

Lamassu is a Neo-Assyrian and/or Akkadian term used to designate a creature, combined of a winged lion or bull figure with a human head. As protective deities, it was a larger than life statue block that was placed on either side of a late Assyrian palace. It was usually depicted as a “double-aspect” figure, apparently possessing five separate legs when viewed from an oblique angle. This allowed for two simultaneous depictions. It appeared to be standing guard when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side, Lamassu appeared to be striding forward. The high relief creature was situated at adjacent sides of the gate at Khorsabad and served as a guardian to the King from all evil. Erected in 720 BC, its size is ten times as massive as humans. Each colossus was carved in the round from a single block of stone, measuring up to 5.50 m2 in size. Initially carved roughly in the quarry, each statue-block was transported to its final location, where it would be set in place and be subjected to fine carving.

Lamassu was a characteristic of this late phase in the development of Assyrian art when sculpture was otherwise rare. Lamassu were powerfully evocative of strength, speed, and intelligence. It was considered by the Assyrians as a protective guardian of their houses, palaces, gateways, and cities. It also symbolized as a sign of Assyrian power which was displayed to foreign dignitaries and ambassadors. There is no historical evidence showing that Lamassu was worshipped as a god. Indeed, most of the sculptures were placed at gateways, palaces, underneath the houses, and not in the temples. Most of today’s Assyrians have a sculpture of Lamassu in their house.

Also many Assyrian organizations, magazines, TV programs, and Web sites use an image of Lamassu. However, present-day use of Lamassu is not for purpose of what their Assyrian ancestors used it; it is used as a sign of linkage to and identification to their ancestors. Indeed, most Assyrians do not use the name of Lamassu; they use “Assyrian Guardian.” However, the name of “Lamassu” does appear in Assyrian poems, especially poems written by Assyrian poets from the homeland and as a name for businesses.

In the past two hundred years, there have been numerous archeological discoveries in Bet-Nahrain. One result of these discoveries has been to acquire some knowledge about the cradle of civilization which was formed in Bet-Nahrain. This area of the world was dominated by different nations. Assyria was one of the most powerful and ambitious nations that dominated Bet-Nahrain for approximately 1200 years. The Assyrians also believed in many protective supernatural beings; one of them is the human-headed winged bull which the Assyrians called it Lamassu.

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