Between the ninth and seventh centuries BC, the small kingdom of Assyria in northern Iraq expanded to dominate the region from Egypt to Iran. The power of the Assyrian kings was reflected in a series of magnificent palaces in which the walls of principal rooms and courtyards were lined with huge panels of alabaster carved with images of the monarch as priest, victorious warrior, and hunter. These sculptures constitute some of the most impressive witnesses of the ancient Middle East, and this book serves as a superb visual introduction to what are undoubtedly some of the greatest carvings from the ancient world.
The book showcases a series of specially taken photographs of the British Museum's unrivaled collection of Assyrian sculptures. The images capture the majesty of the Assyrian king, as well as his magnificent court and its protecting divinities. An introduction sets the sculptures in their cultural and art historical context. A brief history of Assyria and the royal palaces is followed by an overview of the subject matter and meaning of the sculptures together with a discussion of their relationship with the artistic traditions of ancient Iraq and the wider region. There is also an exploration of the sculptures as the earliest examples of complex narrative art that developed from summary or symbolic scenes of royal achievements into images with multilayered meanings that occupied entire rooms and captured the raw emotion and energy of animals and humans with remarkable vitality.