2/5 Assyrian Palace Reliefs


  1. Watch this short video produced by the Met, showing a digital walk-through of an Assyrian palace. Think about the height at which the sculptural reliefs are positioned with respect to the viewer; are they meant to be looked at closely? How easy would it have been to see detail? Remember that they would have been painted originally.
  2. Watch this video, which introduces you to one set of palace reliefs, now in the British Museum.
  3. Go to this website (also from the British Museum) and zoom all around the amazing details from the scene of the Battle of Til-Tuba. Pick a favorite detail. Look closely and figure out what is going on. Take a screenshot of your detail so that you can share it with the class. What choices did the artist make in order to communicate his message? What does he show and not show? How do the choices he made differ from how you might have thought to show something like this? Be prepared to write about your detail and/or share it with the class. It must be something not directly discussed in the video.

Here and here are the details you noticed.

And here is a model exam answer, written by one of your classmates:

“I took special attention to this detail of what appears to be an Elamite being trampled by an Assyrian soldier on a horse. The fallen soldier is depicted in a unique way, with his head shown in profile and his body twisted so that both shoulders are visible. His arm bends backward in an unnatural way, and his palm faces away from the viewer. He is also face down on the ground. This artistic choice makes the body look mangled and deformed, almost in a grotesque way. This adds to the chaos and violence of this piece. I also like how the horse in front of this action is rearing or trying to slow down, its legs overlapping with the body on the ground. This overlap of action between the body, the horse stampeding over the body, and the horse in a dynamic pose to the right creates an interesting overlap of chaos and there is a high level of attention to detail. If the body simply lay face down in the dirt, this piece would not have the same disorderly and violent feel to it.

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