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Apkallu figures are not great gods but are part of the broad group of divinities that for ancient Mesopotamians animated every part of their world. In Assyrian art they appear as either eagle-headed or human-headed and wear a horned crown to indicate divinity. Both types of figure usually have wings. Often regarded as protective spirits they likely had a variety of roles in Assyrian religion including ones connected to wisdom and fertility. Both of these eagle-headed apkallu hold buckets in their lowered hands with a cone-shaped sprinkler in the form of the male date-palm spathe, or flower sheath, and appear to be “fertilizing” the sacred tree. The “Standard Inscription” of Ashurnasirpal, found across many of the reliefs here, records the King’s titles, ancestry, and achievements.
Critical support for the Assyrian Collection at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is provided by the Yadgar Family Endowment.