Dogs in Assyria

The “Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal” relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh, circa 645 B.C.E. The British Museum, London.

Dogs featured prominently in the everyday life of Mesopotamians much as they do today. They are one of the earliest domesticated animals. People work with dogs for hunting, for the protection of their flocks and herds as well as to protect their homes. Images of dogs also served for protection and were often depicted in the company of deities such as Ishtar or Gula. Many small dog statuettes were found in the ruins of Nineveh, buried under and around doorways as part of a magical protection of the homes. 

This fearsome dog is from a group of Assyrian palace reliefs from the North Palace of Nineveh known as the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal. The images document a royal ritual that  involves releasing caged lions for the king to slaughter. This image shows a huntsmen with a large mastiff dog protecting the spectators of the ritual.

A region in northern Mesopotamia whose kings ruled most of the ancient Near East in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.E.

Gods or goddesses; powerful supernatural figures worshipped by humans.

Collective ceremonies having a common focus on a god or gods.

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