Plaque fragment: kneeling lion-headed figure

Old Assyrian Trading Colony

Not on view

This figure belongs to a group of carved ivories, mostly furniture elements, probably found at the site of a palace at Acemhöyük in central Anatolia. Most of the ivories depict imagery borrowed and transformed from Egyptian sources, such as the hybrid creature shown here who combines human and lion features. In Egypt, representations of lioness goddesses appeared as early as the Old Kingdom. This creature, with its kneeling posture and closed mouth, indicated by a diagonal groove, does not appear menacing. Its identity is mysterious, but it appears to have symbolized a benevolent force. Such imagery also demonstrates the contacts that Acemhöyük maintained with the eastern Mediterranean world in addition to the better documented trade with Assur in northern Mesopotamia.

The plaque has attachment holes at top and bottom, and probably was used to decorate a piece of furniture. Its overall gray color indicates that the object was exposed to considerable heat, perhaps during the destruction of the palace. Gilding is preserved not only on areas such as the border of the long open kilt, the mane, and the eyes, but on the chest, suggesting that much of the surface was originally covered in gold leaf. The pupil of the eye was hollowed to receive an inlay, now missing. The mane is stylized to resemble a wig rather than tufts of animal fur. The left arm is bent at the elbow, with the fist held to the chest, while the right grasps a flowering plant stem. The clearly human torso shows no indication of gender. The lower body is depicted kneeling, with one leg exposed and the other covered by the long kilt. A nearly identical plaque, in which the figure faces right, is also in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection (36.70.15, 37.143.3). Both plaques have been reconstructed from two halves, broken at the waist; in this example, the upper half is numbered 36.70.14 and the lower half 37.143.4.

Plaque fragment: kneeling lion-headed figure, Ivory (hippopotamus), gold foil, Old Assyrian Trading Colony

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