Assyrian. Cast of the original in the British Museum, London. Alabaster stele found in the ruins of Nimrud (northern Iraq), ca. 870–860 BCE.


The inscription on this stele is Cuneform script, which is the earliest known writing system in the world. This particular dedication occurs frequently on other monuments dedicated to the king to commemorate his deeds, and therefore is called the Standard Inscription. It begins by tracing Ashurnasirpal II’s lineage back three generations and recounts his military victories, defines the boundaries of his empire and tells how he founded Nimrud and built the palace. In this stele, Ashurnasirpal stands in prayer before a palm tree. The god Ashur, in a winged solar disc, hovers above. The winged gods hold buckets and flowers to pollinate the tree, symbolizing fertility not only for the palm but for the king as well.

Archaeology – Provenance:

This stele was found in May 1846 by Sir Austen Henry Layard, an English archaeologist and diplomat, who is best known as the excavator of Nimrud and of Nineveh. The slab was packed into five cases, which were loaded onto a raft and sent down the Tiber River. The slab eventually made its way to England by ship, arriving at the British Museum in 1849.

Historical Context:

Ashurnasirpal II was King of Assyria ca. 883-859 BCE. He instituted a vast program of expansion, conquering vast swaths of territory. He is renowned not only for his brutality but also for his patronage of the arts. Ashurnasirpal forced enslaved captives to build a new Assyrian capital at Nimrud, near the modern Iraq city of Mosul. As part of his transformation of Nimrud, sometimes called Kalhu, into a magnificent royal capital, Ashurnasirpal II commissioned a vast new palace to serve as his residence in the city. The palace walls were lined with brightly painted relief sculptures, recording the King’s achievements. Across the reliefs ran a cuneiform inscription telling of Ashurnasirpal's victories and the founding of his new capital, and this its new palace. This inscription is now known as the "Standard Inscription" of Ashurnasirpal, which is seen here on this cast.

  • Ashuransirpal ii
  • assyrian
  • assyrian art
  • cuneform script