The British Museum

A MIGHTY KING EAGER FOR A SIGN. Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria (668–627 B.C.E.), is portrayed on this stela wearing the headdress of a king and lifting a large basket of earth for the ceremonial molding of the first brick, an image alluding the Mesopotamian kings’ duty to attend to the gods and construct or restore their temples. Ashurbanipal was also typical in his desire for omens—favorable or ill—to guide his rule and his incessant military campaigns. And, like his peers, he often availed himself of extispicy, divination from sheep entrails.