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Glazed Brick Representing a Birdman

7th century B.C.; Mesopotamian, Neo-Assyrian Period; Glazed terracotta; 33.6 x 34.3 cm (13 1/3 X 13 1/2 in.); Founders Society Purchase, Cleo and Lester Gruber Fund, and the Hill Memorial Fund; 1989.68

The walls of Assyrian palaces and temples were sometimes adorned with glazed terracotta decoration. A tradition for using glazed brick as wall adornment began in the Ancient Near East during the 13 century B.C. in southern Iran.

The Birdman, a magical creature, appeared first in the 3rd millennium B.C. as a mischievous being who was bound and brought before the gods. By the late Neo-Assyrian period, his role is less clear: here he seems beneficent, his arms raised to support, in all probability, a winged sun-disk, the symbol of divinity.