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“Queen of the Night” relief
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This spectacular terracotta plaque shows the image of an unidentified goddess from ancient Babylon. The plaque is made of baked straw-tempered clay and modeled in high relief. The curvaceous central female figure wears the horned headdress characteristic of Mesopotamian deities and holds a rod and ring of justice, symbols of her divinity. Her wings hang downwards, indicating that she is a goddess of the Underworld. She was originally painted red, with multicoloured wings, and the background was originally painted black, suggesting that she was associated with the night.

The plaque probably stood in a shrine. The figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war, or of Ishtar’s sister and rival, the goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld, or of the demoness Lilitu, known in the Bible as Lilith.

“Queen of the Night” relief

From southern Iraq, 1765-1745 BC.
Ht 49,5 cm.

Acquired with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, British Museum Friends, Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), Friends of the Ancient Near East, Sir Joseph Hotung Charitable Settlement and The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust.

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