Susan Nelson Sculpture and Stonemasonry

BBC4 Film


Stills from the TV Programme ‘The Assyrian Lion Hunt’


Susan introducing carving

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Carving the lion-hunt panel

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King Ashurbanipal's lion

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Hand and chisel

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In 2006 Fulmar Films were asked to make a film series entitled ‘Masterpieces of the British Museum’ for BBC4. One of these masterpieces was the Lion Hunt Relief of King Ashurbanipal. This was made in Babylon (present day Iraq) around 640 BC, carved in alabaster. The carving is immensely beautiful, although it depicts a somewhat gruesome theme of lions being slaughtered by the king.

There was some speculation as to how it had been made, given the tools that were available at that time. Could something similar be made now in a similar manner? I was asked to make a replica of one of the dying lions. The essential techniques and tools are still the same as they were then, though firesharp tools keep their edge for longer. My replica was also used as a stand-in for the orginal when the reconstruction of its discovery was filmed.

Below is an image of the lion that I made for the film and a carving of King Ashurbanipal’s head which I made later. (See the For Sale  page)


Alabaster panels after the style of the lion hunt relief panel


Lion carved for film (70 kB)

King Ashurbanipal’s head carved on white alabaster

Head of King Ashurbanipal (81 kB)