British Museum

The Asiatic elephant, valued in the ancient Near East for its ivory tusks. This detailed example appears on the Black Obelisk, a monument from Nimrud that records the submission of several rulers to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (859–825 B.C.). Distinguished from the African species by its high-humped back, shorter tusks (in males only) and smaller size, the Asiatic elephant disappeared from the Near East after the eighth century B.C. because of extensive agricultural cultivation of its natural habitat and because hunters killed large numbers to obtain the precious tusks.