"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": A great big chunk of ancient Assyria

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

Allan Berry sent in this photo from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum. That giant winged-bull-man-thing is a lammasu—ancient Mesopotamia's answer to the sphynx and possibly one of the greatest-looking monsters ever designed.

This one is part of a set that once flanked the doorway to the throne room of Sargon II, whose name really just goes perfectly with the aesthetic of the lamassu. Berry thought this might be a part of ancient Babylon, but from the spot of research I did this morning, Sargon II (and the lamassu) actually hailed from a place called Dur-Sharrukin, or, fittingly, "The Fortress of Sargon." Today, it's a village in northern Iraq, near Mosul.

Also: If you're looking for random ways to procrastinate today, I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry on the University of Chicago Persian Antiquities Crisis. Apparently, the Oriental Institute Museum has a lot of Persian tablets in its collection that are technically owned by the country of Iran. A few years ago, the U.S. Justice Department went after those artifacts, hoping to sell them off to raise money to pay to victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. It's a weird little bit of legal/political history.