Some sections of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad are now open. (More PHOTOS.)
The star exhibit is a stunning collection of Assyrian works from Khorsabad, including two enormous larger-than-life carved scenes of courtiers bringing gifts to the King, two giant guardian Lamassu, a large statue of Nabu the god of Wisdom and Writing, and much more.
Lamassu are Assyrian winged bull or lion guardian figures, with Kingly human heads, typically positioned to guard gateways. The gods have wisely provisioned them with five legs, so that they appear stable when viewed from either the front or the side. I was greatly struck the first time I saw the ones in the British Museum. I’ve now seen others in Paris, Chicago, New York and Persepolis, so it was great to finally see some in their home land of Iraq. The Khorsabad hall has both the two giants and a mid-sized pair. An earlier Assyrian room has a very unusual pair of miniature Lamassu, each only about three feet high. The right-hand one in particular is very well preserved and a delight to see.
There is much more in the museum: I was led through halls of statues from 1st-3rc c. Hatra; of assorted Islamic coins, artifacts, and decorations, of small scale Assyrian pieces (some of very high quality) and a few older Sumerian pieces. I was allowed to briefly poke my nose into a room still under renovation where Assyrian ivories and other high-value items are being prepared for display.
Unfortunately the Museum isn’t yet generally open. My guide (Basim from Babel Tours) takes in small groups fairly regularly and was able to get us admitted. We had the place to ourselves! I hope the various renovations complete soon and the Museum becomes fully operational.
(More Tour Notes on Iraq.)