British Museum

Deadly embrace. A sleek lioness sinks its fangs into a victim’s jugular in this 4-inch by 4-inch carved ivory panel found in the Northwest Palace at Nimrud, lraq (Biblical Calah). Set in a thicket of papyruses and lilies speckled with gold foil and studded with carnelian and lapis lazuli, the scene is in the Phoenician style and was probably carved by a Phoenician craftsman working in ninth-century B.C. Assyria.

More than 5,000 other carved ivories were discovered along with this panel during excavations led by British archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan in which author Wiseman participated. The ivories are critical to understanding Assyrian, Phoenician, Syrian and Egyptian art styles of the first millennium B.C. and the ivory-working techniques of the period, yet after nearly 40 years the task of publishing these finds is still not complete. The delay stems from a desire not to publish them until after exhaustive study. Wiseman argues that prompt, selective publication of important items is a far better approach, not only for the Nimrud ivories but in other fields as well where delays in publication have dragged on for years.