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Eagle-Headed Deity

883-59 B.C.; Mesopotamian, Neo-Assyrian; Limestone; height 1 m (39 3/8 in.); Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie H. Green; 47.181

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.