Eagle-Headed Deity

883-59 B.C.; Mesopotamian, Neo-Assyrian; Limestone. An eagle-headed, winged divinity stands facing a tree of life (the ends of the branches are just visible at the right edge). The figure was a small section of the wall decoration in the state apartments of the royal palace at Nimrud in northern Iraq, built by Assurnasirpal II, King of Assyria. The deity holds a bucket in one hand and in the other a spathe (leaflike sheath for the flowers) of the date palm. He is tending the tree, a symbol of vegetal life and fertility. He, and many more like him, originally brightly highlighted with black, white, red, and blue paint, formed the ornamentation around a room near the throne room thought to have served as a place of ritual bathing. The motif stresses the political and religious importance of nurturing both the kingship and the land for the prosperity of Assyria. Text and images courtesy The Detroit Institute of Arts

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