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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:54

Video transcript

[Music] we're in the British Museum in London and we're looking at a series of magnificent low reliefs these show a very dramatic lion hunt and it's the king of Assyria who's killing the Lions now the Assyrians emerged in Mesopotamia before 1000 BCE but increased their power and by the time these reliefs were made in the 7th century BCE the Assyrians were dominant and really at the height of their civilization the Assyrians had several royal palaces in several capital cities Nineveh Nimrod and Khorsabad the scenes that we're looking at now are from the Royal Palace in Nineveh these would have decorated at hallway so you would have walked through the scene and we're seeing different moments in time Assyrian Kings decorated their palaces with these low reliefs depicting battle scenes hunting scenes these all speak to the power of the Assyrian Kings but this particular set of reliefs is especially naturalistic and dramatic these are considered masterpieces of Assyrian sculpture it's a lion hunt it's important to understand the symbolism the Lions which were native to Mesopotamia and actually a slightly smaller species that is now extinct were symbols of the violence of nature and the king killing the lions and by the way there was a law that said only the king could kill lions the king killing lions was an important symbolic act that spoke of the king keeping nature at bay keeping his city safe even though we see the king killing lions here he's killing them in an arena he's not killing them out in the wild so let's move through the story on one side of the hallway we see the king readying for the hunt we can identify the king because of the particular crown that he wears and he's also larger than the other three figures who are helping him to get ready for the hunt we see one figure with reins pulling the horses two other figures turning in the same direction as the king on the left-hand sides obviously damaged I'm really taking with the horses well the horses are represented so much more naturalistically especially if you look at the musculature of the face of the eyes this tremendous detail and emotion they look as though they're resisting getting bridled for this hunt we can see one of those bridles being tightened and we can see two other figures trying to steady the horses all of this is taking place within ik enclosed space and we can see other attendants that are holding a barrier of some sort to pen in these animals now they're represented below the scene with the king but we're meant to understand them as being around the king so we have human figures who although they're striding forward there's a formality to their poses but strangely a informality I think to the horses well we'll see that also in the representation of the Lions who are represented quite distinctly from them greater sense of formality that the king displays or his attendants display and so we have this division between man and the control of men and then nature and its wildness as we move to the middle of the panels we see a very different scene we've pulled back our view is more distant and we see figures much smaller now we see a hill with lots of figures on it and at the very top what seems to be a monument to the king showing itself a relief of a hunt with the king in a chariot saying why and so it's a representation of a representation of the hunt so it's a relief of a relief I love that this scene does feel chaotic figures gesturing in different ways climbing in different ways so I'm looking back so I'm looking forward they seem to be hurrying up the hill they may be fleeing they may be trying to grab a better position to watch the hunt Fromm's these may be spectators we think we're seeing men and women but in fact this is so old part of this is guesswork and of course this would have been much easier to read in the palace where the relief was painted these were painted very brightly in fact they really would have stood out as we move to the right we come to the arena for the hunt itself and we can see that the Lions will be held in place by a double row of soldiers that peph shield and years and then inside that to ensure that the Lions don't even get that far there's another row of soldiers with Mastiffs they're holding Spears and those dogs will make sure that the Lions don't pass and although these figures are represented one on top of one another we're meant to understand them as being in rows and depths in space I love the representation of the dog so you can see them straining against the leash so we have to walk to the other end now to see how the Lions have entered the arena we see another double row of the Kingsguard and then we see a child releasing a very menacing looking lion into the lion hunt so this is a completely fabricated hunt it is controlled we see the King on chariot he's shooting at arrow we see the arrow airborne and then of course we see the Lions dying all around us wounded pierced some on the ground some leaping up represented with such sympathy the variety is incredible the detail is incredible and you'll notice that the king is in some danger there is a lion that was wounded but it's coming back to attack but his assistants are taking up the rear so this all speaks to the power the authority of the king over nature and representing that power to his people you