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The Queen of the Night, Paperback / softback Book


This large Old Babylonian plaque, found in southern Iraq, was made between 1800 and 1750 BC.

It is made of baked straw-tempered clay, modelled in high relief, and probably stood in a shrine.

The figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar, Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war; or Ishtar's sister and rival, the goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld; or the demoness Lilitu, known in the Bible as Lilith.This book explores the symbolism and history behind this beautiful relief.

The figure wears the horned headdress characteristic of a Mesopotamian deity and holds a rod and ring of justice, symbols of her divinity.

Her long multi-coloured wings hang downwards, indicating that she is a goddess of the Underworld.

Her legs end in the talons of a bird of prey, similar to those of the two owis that flank her.

The background was originally painted black, suggesting that she was associated with the night.

She stands on the backs of two lions, and a scale pattern indicates mountains.

The relief may have come to England as early as 1924, and was brought to the British Museum in 1933 for scientific testing. It has been known since 1936 as the Burney Relief, after its owner at that time.

The relief was in private hands until its acquisition by the Museum in 2003.


  • Format: Paperback / softback
  • Pages: 48 pages, 4 Illustrations, black and white; 15 Illustrations, color
  • Publisher: British Museum Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Non-graphic art forms
  • ISBN: 9780714150437



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