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An Exhibition of Ancient Mesopotamian Art

A Gathering of the Gods - the Power of Mesopotamian Religion

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Assyrian Dark Brown Diorite Lamashtu Plaque
Assyria; 8th-7th Century BC; Height 1.6 inches; Width 2.1 inches

This dark brown diorite magical plaque is finely carved in high raised relief on both sides with protective scenes concerning disease and healing. It contains the upper half of the original plaque with a drilled suspension hole.

Front: the female bringer of disease, Lamashtu, is shown standing in the nude with the head of a roaring lion and donkey ears. She is preserved from the stomach up. She holds two double-headed snakes in each of her raised hands as she suckles dogs at her naked breasts. Above her are images of a sick bedridden man and a bowl. A lit lamp and a tall vase are on her right and left sides.

Back: a procession of seven demons with human bodies and animal heads moves to the right. At the head of the line, a lion-headed demon holds a knife in his raised right hand, approaching an altar with a bird. He grasps the bird's feet in its left hand, and is about to sacrifice it. In the sky are symbols of four Assyrian astral divinities including (from left to right): Sin (crescent moon), Pleiades (seven dots), Ishtar (eight-pointed star on disc) and Ashur (winged sun disc), the state god of Assyria.

This rare magical plaque was used to ward off Lamashtu and the diseases she brought. Similar examples can be found in the collection of the British Museum in London.