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State Archives of Assyria Bulletin

Volume XX (2013 – 2014)

NOTES ON AN ALLEGED BULL STATUETTE FROM ASSUR

Gianni Marchesi

Among the objects recently published by Aaron W. Schmitt from the Assur excavations, 1
no. 54 of his “Katalog der Funde” merits some additional remarks. The artifact in question
(see Fig. 1) was found in 1905 by Walter Andrae and his team at Qal’at Sherqat, in the
area of the Ištar Temple of Aššur-rēša-iši I and the Nabû Temple. 2 We learned of this
piece from a brief note by O. Pedersén, who described it as “Bruchstück einer polierten
Steinskulptur (liegender Stier) mit ‘archaischer’ Inschrift”. 3 A. W. Schmitt similarly con-
siders it to be the rear of a recumbent bull statuette; he describes this small object in detail
as follows:

Br[uckstück einer] Stierfigur aus schwarzem Stein; Hinterteil eines liegenden


Stiers auf einer flachen Basisplatte, rechter Hinterlauf und Schwanz; der
Schwanz endet in drei Strähnen, die auf dem Unterschenkel liegen, über rech-
tem Unterschenkel und Schwanzsträhnen ragt ein Teil des Hufs des linken
Hinterlaufs hervor; die Figur ist teilweise ausgehöhlt, eine ovale Öffnung
befindet sich im Rücken; auf der Rückseite zwei fragmentarische Zeilen einer
vermutlichen Weihinschrift; die Darstellung mit sichtbarem Huf des unterge-
schlagenen Beins ist naturalistisch […] und auch bei anderen Figuren von men-
schengesichtigen(!) Stieren belegt (s. Braun-Holzinger 1991: 320–321 mit wei-
terer Literatur); die Exemplare bei Braun-Holzinger datieren in die neusumeri-
sche Zeit. 4

The comparanda that were pointed out by Schmitt in Braun-Holzinger 1991 are a group

1. Schmitt 2012. I thank Glenn Magid for checking my English.


2. More precisely, in the Planquadrat eD6V of the Suchgraben eC/D6IV/V (see Schmitt 2012: 116; cf.
ibid. 24f. and pl. 13).
3. Pedersén 1997: 55.
4. Schmitt 2012: 116.
58 GIANNI MARCHESI

of Sumerian statuettes, usually made of dark steatite, that served as stands and represent
a Mischwesen with the body and the ears of a bison, a human face, a full beard, long curly
plaits, and the horned crown of divinity. 5 The above-mentioned statuette from Assur
probably belongs to the same category of object, although it lacks markings indicating
hair on the back of the bison’s body. 6 Material, style, and the oval hole on the back all
point to this interpretation. In addition, the ultimate origin of this artifact is almost cer-
tainly to be sought in Sumer, as is suggested by what remains of the original inscription
(in Neo-Sumerian Gudea-like writing 7):

1. [dg]á-tùm-dùg To Gatumdug,
2. [nin-a-n]é his/her [lady],
(rest broken)

Since the goddess Gatumdug was a local deity of the region of Lagash, 8 it is likely that
this object was originally placed as an offering in one of the two temples that were de-
dicated to her at Girsu and Lagash. 9 In this connection, it should be noted that all of the
inscribed statuettes of human-faced bisons were commissioned by rulers of the Second
Dynasty of Lagash or bear inscriptions “for the life” of some member of this dynasty. 10
The specimen found at Assur is probably no exception: it must have reached Assyria at a
later time, presumably as part of the booty taken by Tukultī-Ninurta I when he conquered
Babylon. In fact, several third millennium BC artifacts found in the ancient Assyrian
capital originated in the South. 11 This also means that the statuette under discussion was
kept for several centuries as a sort of sacred relic in a place other than the Gatumdug
Temple of Girsu or Lagash, before it found its way to Assur. 12 Interestingly, another sta-
tuette of the human-faced bison, which had originally been presented to a deity in Girsu,
was found in the temple of Šamaš at Larsa, in a level dating to the Kassite period. 13

5. For this divine and mythological figure, usually referred to as the “human/man-faced/headed bison/
bull,” see Rittig 1993–97. Cf. also Wiggermann 1992: 174f., 176 n. 10; id. 1993–97: 243.
6. The hairless back is also found in a specimen from Ur (U. 178 = BM 116459; see Woolley 1955: 167
and pl. 42; Boehmer 1986: 29 pl. 2b).
7. Cf. the form of the TÙM-sign with Fossey 1926: 850 nos. 28024f.
8. See Falkenstein 1966: 72f.; Selz 1995: 134–136. Cf. also Steible 1989.
9. See Falkenstein 1966: 146 and 158.
10. See Braun-Holzinger 1991: 326–328.
11. See Bartelmus & Schmitt 2014.
12. Both these cities no longer existed in the time of the Babylonian campaign of Tukultī-Ninurta I (see
Falkenstein 1957–71: 390; Bauer 1980–83: 421).
13. See Huot 1978: 104; Braun-Holzinger 1991: 327 T 14. For additional specimens found in post-Sumer-
ian contexts at Uruk and Ur, see respectively Boehmer 1986 and Woolley 1955: 167 (U. 178).
NOTES ON AN ALLEGED BULL STATUETTE FROM ASSUR 59
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bartelmus A., A. Schmitt 2014, “Beutestücke aus Babylonien in Assyrien. Überlegungen zu einer
neuen Weihinschrift Kurigalzus I. aus Assur”, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiati-
sche Archäologie 104, pp. 74–90.
Bauer J. 1980–83, “Lagaš. A. Philologisch”, in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiati-
schen Archäologie 6, pp. 419–422.
Boehmer R. M. 1986, “Ein früher neusumerischer Wisent aus Uruk”, in W. Meid & H. Trenk-
walder (eds.), Im Bannkreis des Alten Orients: Studien zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte des
Alten Orients und seines Ausstrahlungsraumes Karl Oberhuber zum 70. Geburtstag gewidmet
(Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft 24), Innsbruck, pp. 25–30.
Braun-Holzinger E. A. 1991, Mesopotamische Weihgaben der frühdynastischen bis altbabyloni-
schen Zeit (Heidelberger Studien zum Alten Orient 3), Heidelberg.
Falkenstein A. 1966, Die Inschriften Gudeas von Lagaš, I: Einleitung (Analecta Orientalia 30),
Roma.
—— 1957–71, “Girsu. A. Nach den Texten”, in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiati-
schen Archäologie 3, pp. 385–391.
Fossey Ch. 1926, Manuel d’Assyriologie, II: Évolution des cunéiformes, Paris.
Huot J.-L. 1978, “The Man-Faced Bull L. 76.17 of Larsa”, Sumer 34, pp. 104–110.
Pedersén O. 1997, Katalog der beschrifteten Objekte aus Assur: Die Schriftträger mit Ausnahme
der Tontafeln und ähnlicher Archivtexte, Saarbrücken.
Rittig D. 1993–97, “Menschenstier”, in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Ar-
chäologie 8, pp. 61–62.
Schmitt A. W. 2012, Die Jüngeren Ischtar-Tempel und der Nabû-Tempel in Assur: Architektur,
Stratigraphie und Funde (Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichung der Deutschen Orient-Gesell-
schaft 137), Wiesbaden.
Selz G. 1995, Untersuchungen zur Götterwelt des altsumerischen Stadtstaates von Lagaš (Occa-
sional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund 13), Philadelphia.
Steible H. 1989, “Die Beziehungen zwischen Gatumdu und Inanna im Spiegel der Bauinschriften
der Lagaš-I und -II-Zeit”, in H. Behrens, D. Loding, & M. T. Roth (eds.), DUMU-E2-DUB-
BA-A: Studies in Honor of Åke W. Sjöberg (Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah
Kramer Fund 11), Philadelphia, pp. 507–513.
Wiggermann F. A. M. 1992, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (Cuneiform Mo-
nographs 1), Groningen.
—— 1993–97, “Mischwesen. A. Philologisch. Mesopotamien”, in Reallexikon der Assyriologie
und vorderasiatischen Archäologie 8, pp. 222–244.
Woolley L. 1955, Ur Excavations, IV: The Early Periods, London - Philadelphia.
60 GIANNI MARCHESI

Fig. 1. Ass 6834 = VA 8321. Recumbent bull statuette. Rear.


Assur. Area between Aššur-rēša-iši I’s Ištar Temple and the Nabû Temple.
From Schmitt 2012: pl. 171: 54