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The Winged Human-headed Bull

The one piece of Mesopotamian art that struck me the most was the Winged Human Headed Bull, also called Lamassu. This high relief struck me because of its power. It is able to command attention through its size, position, and strangeness. Its scale is massive at almost fourteen feet tall. It is placed at the entrance of the Citadel of Sargon II, demanding attention and setting the mood. It carries a strangeness with its five legs, bull body, human head, and bird wings. When I first saw this piece, I felt a fear arise in me, especially after visualizing what it must be like to see it up close. The Assyrians that designed this piece of art were trying to capture the viewer’s attention and provoke fear.

The Assyrians, who reigned from 900-600 B.C., were very militaristic in culture. They were warriors and defenders of their land. The Citadel of Sargon II was built for the purpose of defense- this can be seen through many aspects of the architecture, especially the fortification and crenellation of the walls. These Lamassu figures were placed at the entrance way. They set the mood, a fearful one, to those that entered. They also were a reflection of the Assyrians themselves. The lamassus had the body of a bull- a figure known for its power and strength. Also, its five legs created a stable position, connected to the ground. The Assyrians saw themselves as powerful, strong warriors that had a stable foundation they defended. They wanted to be feared, and the Winged Human Headed Bull was the perfect figure to capture that feeling and project it.

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