© Erich Lessing

Measuring 8.5 inches on a side, the small black basalt prism recounts how Esarhaddon restored the temples and walls of Babylon. The upper register shows four symbols: a shrine, a man with an upraised hand (possibly a king), a sacred tree and a bull. The second register displays a triangular mound, a plow and seed drill, a palm tree with date clusters and a square object. Scholars have suggested that these symbols represent the name and royal title of King Esarhaddon. “Assyrian hieroglyphs” like the ones found on Esarhaddon’s “Black Stone” are attested from the time of Sargon II onward and may have been inspired by Assyrian encounters with Egyptian civilization.