Bull-man, Protect!

By Iris Fernandez

How do you bring a temple wall to life? As sacred sites, temple walls could be embellished in a variety of ways.

At the site of Susa, in modern-day Iran, builders in the 12th century BCE took the innovative step of molding bricks to create protective figures like this bull-man. Clay was a vital substance in the ancient Middle East and was used here not just to decorate the walls of the temple but to activate the divine bull-man.

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Bricks with a protective bull-man and cuneiform inscription
Middle Elamite Period, Shutrukid Dynasty (reign of Kutir-Nahhunte and Shilhak-Inshushinak, ca. 1150–1120 BCE)
Molded baked clay
Inshushinak Temple, Apadana Mound, Susa, Iran
H. 139 cm; W. 36 cm; D. 33 cm

Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Antiquités orientales: Sb 21960
© RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Franck Raux