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Colossal winged bull from the Palace of Sargon
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This is one of a pair of human-headed winged bulls that once guarded an entrance to the citadel of Dur-Sharrukin, known today as Khorsabad. The city was built by the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BC) as the new capital of his empire.

Assyrian records show that the building of entrances was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies, and they were given names as good omens to ward off evil. Magical gateway figures such as this were erected not only to decorate the building and impress visitors but also to protect the king. Small figurines buried under the entrances gave additional protection.

Between the legs of this figure is a long cuneiform inscription listing Sargon’s titles, ancestry and achievements. Roughly scratched on the plinth, however, is a grid for the “Game of Twenty Squares” (similar to the “Game of Ur” in the final selection), possibly the work of bored palace guards or people waiting to enter the citadel.

Colossal winged bull from the Palace of Sargon

Made in Assyria, modern Iraq, c. 710 BC.
Ht. 4,42 m.

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