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October 2003

What a Relief

During the late eighth century B.C., it watched over a gate of King Sargon II's palace at Dur Sharrukin, now Khorsabad, Iraq. But this gypsum relief of a winged Assyrian god eventually went underground—buried beneath centuries of dirt after the king died and Dur Sharrukin was abandoned. An archaeological team from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute finally uncovered the carving during the 1933-34 excavations at the site (right). Though other Khorsabad finds were shipped to Chicago, this god never flew far from home and has long been displayed at Baghdad's Iraq Museum. Perhaps the ancient deity still holds a few of its old powers of protection: It remained unharmed during last April's looting of the museum's treasures.
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Photograph from Oriental Institute, University of Chicago