From Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq)
Ht 24.2 cm, Thickness 0.4 cm
Date ca 9th century BC
NM Inv. 59.03: purchased from the Institute of Archaeology, London.
This restored ivory plaque from Nimrud features a robed woman seated on a chair carved in low raised relief, holding a lotus plant in her outstretched right hand and a sceptre (?) in the other. Her feet rest on a footstool, while under her chair is a winged griffin or sphinx.
The plaque was found in Room SW7 at Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud (modern Iraq) one of the major cities of the Assyrian Empire. A large number of other ivories were found in this room during excavations conducted by Sir Max Mallowan.
The plaque bears the hallmarks of a Phoencian product from the coastal Levantine cities of Tyre and Sidon. Such ivory products made in this region often featured Egyptianising motifs like sphinxes mixed with local designs to produce a hybrid work typical of the area. Many of the ivories found in the Assyrian cities probably arrived as booty carried off from the towns of the coastal Levant by marauding Assyrian armies; others may have arrived as tribute from Assyrian vassals.
Carved ivory pieces were a luxury item popular as inlay on furniture, household items, or toilet articles. Furniture was generally made of wood, but often used bronze overlay, stone pieces and carved ivory pieces as decorative elements. Both hippopotamus and elephant ivory were used, but without detailed testing it is impossible to tell the difference between the two. The plaque was probably intended for the side or back of a chair, or other piece of furniture.