A lamassu is an Assyrian protection angel with the head of a human, the body of an ox or lion, and the wings of a bird. It is sometimes depicted as a female deity in some literature. Shedu, which refers to the male counterpart, is a less commonly used name. The Lammasu or Lumasi represents the zodiacs, parent stars, and constellations.
Prominent lamassu figures, which can reach about 5 meters in height, are outstanding showpieces in Assyrian sculpture, where they are the world’s giant figures.
Lamassu were represented in art as hybrids, either winged bulls or lions with a human male’s head. A winged animal with a human head is a popular motif in the Near East, dating back to roughly 3000 BCE in Ebla. During Tiglath-Pileser II, the first identifiable lamassu motif developed in Assyria as a sign of dominance.
In Assyrian sculpture, prominent pairs of lamassu were generally placed at palace doors facing the street and internal courtyards. They were “double-aspect” figures in great relief on the corners. They appear to stand from the front and walk from the side, and they had five legs in earlier forms, as can be seen when seen obliquely. Lamassu does not feature as a prominent figure in the low-relief schemes that run around royal halls, where winged genie figures are ubiquitous. Still, they occasionally appear within narrative reliefs, seemingly safeguarding the Assyrians.
The Lammasu or Lumasi represents zodiacs, parent stars, and constellations. Because they include all life, they are portrayed as guardian deities. These deities could be microcosms of their microcosmic zodiac, parent-star, or constellation, as they are depicted as physical deities in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, from which the Lammasu imagery derives. Even though “lamassu” had a different iconography and portrayal in Sumerian culture, the terms lamassu, alad, and shedu emerged from Sumerian culture to identify the Assyrian-winged-man-bull emblem and statues during the Neo-Assyrian empire. “Apsasû” was the name given to female lamassus.
The lamassu is a divine entity from ancient Mesopotamian religion that has a human head, a bull’s body, often with horns and ears, and wings. It’s a common motif in Mesopotamian art. The lamassu and shedu, typical Babylonian household protecting spirits who subsequently became linked with royal protectors, were stationed as sentinels at the doorways. The god Papsukkal was connected with lamassu and the god Ium with shedu by the Akkadians.
The lamassu were carved in clay tablets and buried beneath the door’s threshold to safeguard dwellings. They were frequently set in pairs at palace entrances. They were sculpted in colossal scale and put as a pair at the gates of cities, one on each side of the city’s door, which usually had entries in the surrounding wall, each gazing towards one of the cardinal points.
The Assyrian culture’s symbolism inspired the ancient Jewish people. The prophet Ezekiel described a magnificent being made up of human, lion, eagle, and bull characteristics. The four Gospels were later ascribed to each of these components during the early Christian period. This image was known as the Tetramorph when it was depicted in art.