Ornament with heads of roaring lions, possibly the terminal of a sword or dagger hilt
Not on view
This unique limestone object formed part of a handle or hilt. The circular piercing that runs from end to end might have held the blade of a sword or dagger, or another object such as the military standards sometimes seen in Assyrian art. Many Assyrian sculptures depict swords whose hilts bear a striking resemblance to this object, with a round pommel and roaring lion heads (here two half-heads: the upper jaw of one lion forms the lower jaw of the other) where the blade would have been inserted. In this case the heads are well carved in a classic Assyrian style.
The handle originally featured considerable decoration in other materials, now largely lost. A small surviving element of decoration shows that the middle sections, separated by ridges, were once filled with mosaic tesserae in white, red, and green, together with gold foil, that formed guilloche patterns. The lion heads still retain lapis lazuli ‘warts’ above the eyes, and lapis lazuli survives at the rim of one eye. The lions’ eyes themselves would certainly have been inlaid.