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Video transcript

[Music] ancient Mesopotamia is often credited as the cradle of civilization that is the place where farming in cities began and it makes it seem so peaceful but this was anything but the case in fact it was really a series of civilizations that conquered each other we're in a room in the Louvre filled with sculpture from the Assyrians who controlled the ancient Near East from about a thousand BCE to around 500 BCE and these sculptures in particular come from the palace of sargon ii and were carved at the height of Assyrian civilization in the eighth century BCE so this is modern-day Khorsabad in iraq and various Assyrian Kings established palaces at different cities and so there were palaces at Nimrod a Nasser before this and after there'll be a palace at Nineveh but these sculptures come from an excavation from modern-day Khorsabad the most impressive sculptures that survived are the Guardian figures that protected the city's gates and protected the gates of the Citadel itself that is the area within which were both the temple and the royal palace so at each of these various gates there were Guardian figures that were ringed Bulls with the heads of men we think they're called mama su as figures that stood at gateways they make sense their fearsome they look powerful they could also be an expression of the power of the Assyrian King they are enormous but even they would have been dwarfed by the architecture they would have stood between huge arches and in fact they had some structural purpose it's interesting to note that each of these Lama su are actually carved out of a monolithic stone that is there are no cuts here these are single pieces of stone and in the ancient world it was no small task to get these stones in place well and apparently there were relief carvings in the palace that depicted moving these massive Lama su into place so it's important to remember that the Lama su were the gateway figures but the walls of the palace were decorated with relief sculpture showing hunting scenes and other scenes indicating royal power this is a Lama su that it was actually a guardian for the exterior gain of the city and it's an awfully good condition well my favorite part is the crown it's decorated with rosettes and then double horns that come around toward the top center and then on top of that a ring of feathers it's really delicate for such a massive and powerful creature the faces are extraordinary first of all just at the top of the forehead you can see a kind of incised wavy hair that comes just below the crown and then you have a connected eyebrow and then the ears are the ears of a bull that wear earrings actually quite elaborate earrings well the whole forum is so decorative and then there's that marvelous complex representation of the beard you see little ringlets on the cheeks of the face but then as the beard comes down you see these spirals that turn downward and then are interrupted by a series of horizontal bands and then the wings to form this lovely decorative pattern up the side of the animal and then across its back in fact across the body itself there are ringlets as well so we get a sense of the fur of the Beast and then under the creature and around the legs you can see inscriptions in Jenaya form some of which declared the power of the kings and damnation for those that were threatened the Kings work that is the Citadel what's interesting too is that these were meant to be seen both from a frontal view and a profile view well if you count up a number of legs there's one too many there are five all right two from the front and four from the side but of course one of the front legs overlapped with so there are five legs what's interesting is that when you look at the creature from the side you actually see that it's moving forward but when you look at it from the front those two legs are static so the Beast is stationary and think about what this means for a guardian figure at a gate as we approach we see it still watching us as we move but if we belong if we're and were allowed to pass this gate as we move through it we see the animal itself move and then we have this combination of these decorative forms that we've been talking about with a sensitivity to the anatomy of this composite animal his abdomen swells and his hindquarters moved back and then we can see the veins and muscles and bones in his leg so there really is this funny relationship between the naturalistic and the imagination of the sculpture and the decorative but all speaking to the power the authority of the king and the fortifications of this palace and this city they are incredibly impressive it would be impossible to approach the signal without being awestruck by the power of the civilization [Music]
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