page added 9/7/98

Northwest Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II at Nimrud

An Interactive Publication -- Prototype

The Throne Room  -  by Samuel M. Paley

The Throne Room is the largest of the Palace's audience halls, measuring ca. 9.8 X ca. 45.7 meters. All its walls were lined with bas-relief decoration and probably had painted plaster and brick decorating the upper parts of the walls. Entering the Throne Room from the Great Northern Courtyard through the western portal (so-called Entry 'D'), the visitor was confronted immediately with many images: across from the entrance, bas-relief (depicting the king at war) in two registers with a panel of inscription separating them; and, to the right, a pair of lion-lamassu administered by eagle-headed geniuses to the right flanking a portal to an anteroom (Area C).

Turning to the left, the visitor would have faced the length of the Throne Room towards the seated king and his attendants at the other end. It was at this moment that the visitor could see that the whole length of the room. Both sides were decorated with more bas-relief scenes of war, except for the panels beside the doorways which were framed with more geniuses, a pair of bull-lamassu at an entrance to the far right near the throne (B-b-2 and B-b-1), lion and bull hunts in the far right corner beside the throne (B-20 and B-19), and two sets of religious scenes depicting the king with divine attendants attending on the Assyrian "Sacred Tree", one directly behind the throne and taking up nearly the whole eastern wall (B-22, B-23, and B-24), and another directly opposite the main entranceway to that room, which was in the middle of the northern wall to the left, and on the southern wall of the Throne Room (B-12, B-13, and B-14).

Of course, a cursory look would have only identified the genre of scenarios, not the details. Understanding the details would have required both time and more specific knowledge. But without getting too deeply into speculation about what may have been in the visitor's mind while trying to take all of this in, it was probably the king on his throne with the religious scene behind him that held the visitor's attention. The meaning of that set of panels will be discussed more fully elsewhere, but the depiction of the king in what must have been a religious act of significance to his kingship, is manifestly evident in this depiction. That the whole scene is duplicated in a panel placed directly across from the main doorway of the palace into the Throne Room supports this contention.

When this central, larger portal was open, this scenario could be viewed from the Great Northern Courtyard; and, when the king, his courtiers and other designated individuals used that center doorway, the first bas-relief decoration they saw as they approached the open doors and entered the rooms was this scene of the king and his human and divine attendants administering to the "Sacred Tree." As if to emphasize the importance of that ritual, the king is portrayed in this instance again, viewing the scene with human attendants. He carries in his right hand a long staff, a symbol in ancient Near Eastern iconography which probably should be associated with the shepherd's staff as staff of rulership. It is as if he is trying to show through this depiction that he derives his kingly station from the religious acts symbolized by the "Sacred Tree" ceremony.

From a purely practical, design standpoint, these two scenes have been raised on a ground line that is higher than those of the flanking scenes. In this way. the scene can be viewed behind the king on his throne and from a distance through the main throne room portals (Paley and Sobolewski; Paley; Winter). It has been suggested that the rabetting that creates a shallow niche framing the scenes might have been continued as an arch-shape in the wall above. The association with the wall painting restored by the excavators of Palace K at Khorsabad inspired this hypothetical restoration (Sobolewski).

Choosing which war campaigns (there are many described in the royal annals) were to be depicted must have taxed the artists who presented their ideas to the king (Paley). Winter has identified several of the royal campaigns among the bas-relief: B-5a to B-3a is the attack of Damdammusa; B-5b to B-3b refers to the siege of Mt. Kashiaru in Urartu; B-11b to B-9b depicts the crossing of the Euphrates River in the districts of Suhu and Laqê; B-17, both the upper and lower register, were devoted to the capture of Carchemish; and supports Barnett's contention that B-27b and 28b are scenes from the campaigns in the Zagros. The use of the Carchemish scenario, if that is correct, on the outer facade of the Throne Room wing of the palace explains what is one of the basic plans of the total decorative scheme of the Palace: the throne room was the center piece, depicting the whole panoply of Ashur-nasir-pal's activities and roles in Assyria, to be mined and reused in various meaningful ways throughout its public rooms

History of the Excavations The Global Distribution of the Remains
Descriptions of Palace Spaces:
The Great Northern Courtyard
The Throne Room - top
The Digital Reconstruction Process Images from the Digital Model
The Northwest Palace Home Page
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