The Dying Lion


Hello I'm Sarah Collins, I'm the curator for early Mesopotamia in the Middle East department of the British Museum. I'm very happy to be working with Melbourne Museum on the Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia Exhibition and I've brought one object here, before the other objects come next month, as a taster of what's to come.

The Dying Lion comes from a much bigger relief, which showed King Ashurbanipal hunting lions in his chariot. King Ashurbanipal ruled a vast empire which extended from the Persian Gulf all the way to the Mediterranean between the years 668 and 631 [BC]

When this was discovered by the archaeologist William Loftus it was together with other reliefs which had fallen from an upper floor into the room below. Many of these reliefs were broken, in fact we're bringing a whole one to show in the exhibition which also comes from the same room so you'll be able to see what kind of scene this lion fit into.

These stone sculptures lined the internal walls inside Assyrian palaces. And they were carved with extreme skill. Ashurbanipal no doubt had a say in what the artist carved, everything shown was to reflect the power and might of the empire.

The artist has clearly observed lions from real life and has a good knowledge of the musculature and the movement of lions. As I say, this is one in a sequence so this is shown like a cartoon. And this lion is just about to die, it's just on the point of death you can almost see that it's eyes are glazing over and it's gripping the ground and blood is pouring out of its mouth and it's straining to stay upright. And the artist has portrayed all the muscles on the lion's legs as it's straining there.

So now the lion is going to stay here on display as a small preview of what's to come and I'm going to return to the British Museum and there we'll start packing up all of the other objects and we'll start installing the exhibition - I'm really looking forward to doing that and I really hope everybody's going to appreciate and enjoy this exhibition.

About this Video

British Museum curator Sarah Collins reveals the "dying lion" relief.
Length: 02:30