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Oriental Institute Virtual Museum

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Proposed Khorsabad Court In The New Mesopotamian Gallery

The installation of climate control in the Oriental Institute Museum galleries will necessitate deinstalling 14 or the 15 monumental stone reliefs from the palace of King Sargon II at Khorsabad. This provides a perfect opportunity for the Museum to conserve all the reliefs, to mount them in a technically reversible fashion, and to reinstall them relative to one another as in their ancient setting. This computer rendering, which shows how the new "Khorsabad Court" might appear, conveys the grand scale of the main part of this proposed reinstallation.

At the beginning of his reign in 721 B.C., Sargon II founded a brand-new capital city, Dur-Sharrukin (Fort Sargon), at what is now the site of Khorsabad in northern Iraq. There he built a vast palace and had it decorated with brightly colored reliefs and gateway figures executed on a huge scale calculated to inspire awe in all who saw them. The Oriental Institute excavated Sargon's palace in 1928-29 and received 15 reliefs as the result of a generous division of finds. These were brought back to Chicago, where they were extensively restored and installed in two different museum galleries in 1931. The reinstallation will re-unite these reliefs, creating the Khorsabad Court - an evocative reconstruction of the main public courtyard in the palace, including part of the facade of Sargon II's throne room. A corridor lined with reliefs of foreigners bringing tribute will lead out of the Court - as it did in the original palace-bridging the transition to the more private areas of the royal residence. The corridor will end at what may have been the king's personal banqueting chamber, decorated with small scale reliefs showing Sargon II hunting and feasting.

In this recreated palace, the reliefs will stand, once again, as monumental artistic masterpieces that together communicate the power, wealth, and empire-building capabilities of the monarch who had them displayed as political messages on the walls of his royal residence. The recreated palace, with its colossal sculptures depicting king, courtiers, and the trappings of royal life, will serve as a setting for programming that introduces the life and times of Sargon II, his country, and the far-flung empire over which he ruled.

Return to the Museum Renovation Project

Revised: February 19, 2007

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