Chicago Oriental Institute’s colossal head of a bull from Persepolis.
Carved from dark grey limestone and highly polished, the head measures over two metres high and a metre and a half wide and weighs an estimated ten tons. Enormous yet beautifully sculptured, the head was attached to the body of a bull that still stands as one of a pair flanking the northern portico of the so-called Hundred-Columns Palace (also called the Throne Hall).
Entrances to important buildings were frequently â€˜protectedâ€™ by pairs of colossal animals (some of which were mythological guardian creatures) in the ancient Near East. And the pair of bulls the Chicago head was once associated with would have been no different. The bodies of the bulls were carved in relief on the side walls of the portico, whereas the heads were carved in the round.
Sometime in the past, perhaps when the city was sacked, both heads became detached from their bodies. They were found not far from the bodies during excavations in 1932/3 by archaeologists from the University of Chicagoâ€™s Oriental Institute. Unfortunately, the ears and horns, which were clearly not carved from the same block of stone but added separately, were not recovered.