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Work Deportation of the Population After the Capture of the City of Din Sharri

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Deportation of the Population After the Capture of the City of Din Sharri

© 1996 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Near Eastern Antiquities
Mesopotamia

Author(s):
Kalensky Patricia

This fragmentary relief comes from the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) at Nineveh. The decoration of the buildings in the last Neo-Assyrian capital marks the final period of Assyrian monumental art and its apogee. The illustration of the Elam campaign, to which this scene of deportation belongs, exhibits the narrative and miniaturist style that characterized the period.

A deportation scene

This fragment of a relief comes from the palace at Nineveh, the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire from the reign of Sennacherib (704-681 BC). A large part of the carved decoration of Nineveh is attributed to the reign of Ashurbanipal when the empire was at its apogee. It spreads over large orthostats, slabs of stone which protected and decorated the base of the walls, and illustrates the royal epic. Victories over neighboring countries are depicted in the images and recounted in the texts fitted into these tableaux or written on tablets and prisms.
The text on this low relief is fragmentary but tells us that the conquered city was Din Sharri. It is therefore the illustration of an episode in the Elam campaign, a military expedition led by Ashurbanipal in 664 BC, which ended with the capture of the capital Susa in 664 BC. Deportation is known to have been common practice among the Assyrians from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC). This relief shows a procession of people who are recognizable as Elamite deportees escorted by the Assyrian army.

Narrative art

Monumental Assyrian art from the time of Ashurbanipal is narrative and miniaturist. This is a deportation scene arranged conventionally in registers, in which the details of the figures and their poses are carefully depicted. The desire to tell the story sometimes led the artists to leave the registers and produce huge swarming pictures as on the reliefs in the British Museum illustrating battles against enemy cities.
On this fragment, in the upper register, the Elamites, barefoot and dressed in long tunics, are carring their few remaining belongings in bundles over their shoulders or loaded on a cart pulled by oxen. The women are sitting on this cart and seem to be free to move around, unlike the men who are fettered and closely watched by a Assyrian soldier, depicted on the right in the lower register. The presence of women and children, drawn in great detail in various postures, gives the scene extra pathos. These reliefs were intended to make spectators aware of this demonstration of power, illustrated by the exodus of defenseless people.

Bibliography

Matthiae Paolo, Ninive, Electa, 1998, p. 17.
Charpin Dominique, Grandeur et décadence, in Le Monde de la Bible, n 84, sept-oct 1993, p. 6.
Caubet Annie, L'Art assyrien, in Le Monde de la Bible, n 84, sept-oct 1993, p. 24.
Borne interactive du département des Antiquités orientales, 1993.
Barnett Richard David, Assyrian Palace Reliefs, The British Museum, 1970.
Barnett Richard David, Bleibtreu, E., Turner, G., Sculptures from the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, The British Museum, 1998.

Technical description

  • Deportation of the Population After the Capture of the City of Din Sharri

    c. 645 BC

    Nineveh, Palace of Ashurbanipal, room V1/T1, Iraq

  • Gypseous alabaster

    H. 0.97 m; W. 1.23 m

  • Gift of the British government, 1855

    An Episode from the Elam Campaign

    AO 19907

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia and northern Syria. Assyria: Til Barsip, Arslan Tash, Nimrud, Nineveh
    Room 6

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