Publication Date



The Ancient Near Eastern monument known as the “Altar of Tukulti-Ninurta” is traditionally analyzed as a divine symbol-socle used in the cult cella of the Ištar Temple at Aššur. This chapter – which refers to the “Altar” by its ancient term, “nemedu” – presents a re-evaluation of the monument’s archaeological context, as well as a consideration of comparative art historical evidence. Both data sets suggest that the nemedu in question was actually intended for use outside the temple doorway. Based on this understanding of the nemedu’s functional context, a more public viewership must be reconstructed for the monument, necessitating, in turn, new approaches to the supposedly self-referential relief on the monument’s face, as well as new interpretations of the viewer-object relationship(s) in which the monument participated. The chapter proposes that the combination of the monument’s public viewership, its intimate relief depiction of the king’s body, and the performances generated by the monument’s material properties, created a community of shared ritual action that bridged the usual social and physical divisions between the king and his nonroyal subjects. This unprecedented effect made the nemedu a powerful monument, but also a problematic one, perhaps necessitating the nemedu’s eventual decommissioning and storage.

Document Type

Book Chapter


Assyria, monument, altar, Ishtar, temple, nemedu, throne, kneeling, king, Iraq, Ancient Near East


Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Near Eastern Languages and Societies


Approaching Monumentality in Archaeology, edited by James Osborne