Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin

Symbolizing Nusku, the god of light, a thin, bright rod elicits the adoration of the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta in this relief, carved on one side of a stone altar dating from the 13th century B.C.E. An understanding of royal Assyrian worship practices may illuminate the even maskit, a biblically proscribed cultic object whose purpose and meaning have long puzzled scholars. Was it a “stone for prostration,” as the earliest Jewish sources interpret it? Was it a decorated stone, somehow connected with idolatry, as Ezekiel 8:12 seems to hint? A recently deciphered inscription from ancient Assyria may shed light on this heretofore mysterious ritual stone.