Decorative boss


Not on view

This curved object, carved from a thick piece of shell and decorated with a guilloche border, was part of a group of 18 similar pieces found in a well in the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. They were probably thrown into the well when the palace was sacked, in 614 B.C. and then again two years later. Their function is mysterious. All were pierced in the center and in some examples, including this piece, a nail remained in the central hole. The nail must have fastened the shell to a backing in some other material, perhaps wood. Other objects found in the same well can be identified as horse trappings, such as the small shell ornaments and studs also in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection (54.117.16-.19). These were probably part of a leather harness, which disintegrated in the well sludge. Horses in the reliefs of the palace of Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) are represented with similar double-fan shaped ornaments on their bridles, as in a relief in the Metropolitan Museum (33.16.1) showing a groom with two horses. This suggests that the other shell pieces found with the harness ornaments may have also been used for outfitting horses, perhaps affixed to a chariot as decoration. Because of the close parallel with the reliefs from the palace at Dur Sharrukin, the equestrian harness elements from this well probably date to the time of Sargon in the late eighth century B.C. At this time, the Northwest Palace was primarily used for storage rather than as a royal residence.

Decorative boss, Shell, silver, bitumen (?), Assyrian

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