Grasping an antelope by its horns, and supporting a monkey and a leopard skin on his shoulders, this 5.3-inch-tall ivory figurine from Nimrud, on the Tigris River in northern Iraq, most likely represents a Nubian tribute-bearer. It is carved in the so-called Phoenician style that flourished during the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. The figure’s straight-backed pose—with both feet pointing to his left—and his kilt-like garment are reminiscent of many Egyptian artworks.
The Nubian figure was discovered in 1960 at Fort Shalmaneser, a palace for reviewing troops built in the southeast corner of the Nimrud site by King Shalmaneser III (858–824 B.C.). It is one of dozens of beautiful ivories found over the course of successive excavations at Nimrud. Many of these were originally covered with gold leaf or inlaid with semiprecious gems and were used primarily as furniture decorations in the lavish palaces of the Assyrian kings. Yet exactly how they came to Nimrud is not known: Scholars are uncertain whether they were imported as tribute or made by Phoenician craftsmen living in ancient Nimrud.