This is one of a group of ivory knobs found in a storage room in the large building at Nimrud named Fort Shalmaneser by the excavators. Carved ivory was widely used in the production of elite furniture during the early first millennium B.C. Ivory plaques and strips were often inlaid into a wooden frame using joinery techniques and glue. Knobs such as these could have been used to mask dowel holes and nail heads in a finished piece of furniture.
Built by the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, the palaces and storerooms of Nimrud housed thousands of pieces of carved ivory. Most of the ivories served as furniture inlays or small precious objects such as boxes. While some of them were carved in the same style as the large Assyrian reliefs lining the walls of the Northwest Palace, the majority of the ivories display images and styles related to the arts of North Syria and the Phoenician city-states. Phoenician style ivories are distinguished by their use of imagery related to Egyptian art, such as sphinxes and figures wearing pharaonic crowns, and the use of elaborate carving techniques such as openwork and colored glass inlay. North Syrian style ivories tend to depict stockier figures in more dynamic compositions, carved as solid plaques with fewer added decorative elements. However, some pieces do not fit easily into any of these three styles. Most of the ivories were probably collected by the Assyrian kings as tribute from vassal states, and as booty from conquered enemies, while some may have been manufactured in workshops at Nimrud. The ivory tusks that provided the raw material for these objects were almost certainly from African elephants, imported from lands south of Egypt, although elephants did inhabit several river valleys in Syria until they were hunted to extinction by the end of the eighth century B.C.
1957, excavated by Max Mallowan, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; ceded in the division of finds to the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; acquired by the Museum in 1958, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.
Wilkinson, Charles K. 1958. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (2), Eighty-Eighth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1957-1958 (Oct., 1958), pp. 40-41.
Herrmann, Georgina. 1992. The Small Collections from Fort Shalmaneser, Ivories from Nimrud (1949-1963), Fasc. V. London: The British School of Archaeology in Iraq, no. 488, p. 132, pl. 101.