All-seeing Brick

By Iris Fernandez

Eye’s forward as we start the new semester! This brick depicting a portion of a deity’s head probably comes from the facade of a palace or temple at the site of Ashur in Assyria (modern-day northern Iraq). This piece is interesting because it shows that similar approaches to architectural decoration were being explored both in Assyria and Babylonia in the mid 1st millennium BCE. Like the divine beasts of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way, this figure of a deity was assembled from multiple glazed bricks. In contrast to the Babylonian bricks, however, this example from Ashur is two-dimensional--that is, the imagery is painted on the bricks rather than molded. Nonetheless, in both cases, fitters’ marks were required to assemble the final architectural facade.

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Take a look back at our April 15th post on the fitters’ mark system used at Babylon, as recorded in the watercolor illustrations by architect and archaeologist Walter Andrae. Although different systems of fitters’ marks were used in different cities, there was some overlap in the symbols-- can you match the symbols on top of this brick with some of the ones from Babylon?

Brick with part of a god’s face and fitters’ marks
Neo-Assyrian Period, ca. 800–612 BCE
Glazed baked clay
Ashur (modern Qal'at Sharqat), Iraq
H. 8 cm; W. 34.5 cm; D. 16.5 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum: VA Ass 02299