British Museum Decided Against Uniting a Cursed Assyrian Stele and Bad Luck Fell to the Police
It was common practice for inscriptions to be addressed to future rulers with an appeal for the statue’s care and respect. It’s not surprising to consider that the monuments were also desired by rival kings; who would attempt to steal them and have their own name inscribed on the “trophy.” Curses were written on the statues to prevent this.
This basalt stele was erected by one of the king’s local governors, Nergal-Eres, at Saba. The stele’s inscriptions report on the King’s victorious campaign against Palashtu (Palestine) and features the Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III praying in front of divine symbols. From Saba. Neo-Assyrian period, 810-783 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum/Istanbul Archeological Museums, Turkey. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
The Assyrian Empire had expanded its lands from modern Iraq to the Nile during the 9th century BC. But in 612 BC the capital, Nineveh, fell to the Babylonian and the Medes armies. The rest of the empire soon collapsed as well.
In January 2017 the bottom half of the stele made international headlines once again. This time it was at the center of a dispute between its former owner and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London. The Commissioner was being sued by a Lebanese antiquities dealer after the police confiscated the relic due to questions about its provenance.
The British Museum revealed at that time that they declined to purchase the bottom half when it went up for auction in 2014 due to doubts about how it came to be in the hands of the dealer. The former owner claimed he has proof that it was obtained legally and sued the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who ordered the removal of the stele from Bonhams auction house.
NOTE: Ancient Origins does not condone the trade of ancient artifacts or the antiquities market when it encourages the removal of precious artifacts from their ancestral home.
Online Collection – British Museum
Written in Stone – by Gwendolyn Leick