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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Pazuzu Plaque
Work Type
relief, sculpture
730-530 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Mesopotamia
Iron Age
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

9.5 × 6.7 × 2.4 cm (3 3/4 × 2 5/8 × 15/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Charles D. Kelekian, New York (by 1952-1982)], by descent; to [Kelekian Associates, New York (1982-1992)], by descent; to Nanette Rodney Kelekian, New York (1992-2021), bequest; to the Harvard Art Museums.

"Kelekian Associates" was formed at the death of Charles D. Kelekian by Nanette Rodney Kelekian and her mother Beatrice Kelekian. Upon Beatrice Kelekian’s death in 1992, ownership passed to Nanette Rodney Kelekian.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Nanette B. Kelekian
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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A representation of the demon Pazuzu fills the entire front of this relief plaque of gray stone. The figure displays the standard features of this hybrid creature, mixing human, canine, bird, and other animal elements. Pazuzu has an almost square head with bulging brows and a broad mouth. He is flashing his teeth, which include four fangs, two at top and two below; the tongue peeks out in between. The missing nose likely was that of a dog, and the now abraded eyes would have been wide open. The beard is cropped short and indicated by strokes. The ears are human. Ribbed goat horns lie flat on top of the head.

Below the long, stringy neck are human shoulders and arms, with feline paws instead of hands. Pazuzu's proper right arm is raised; the left is lowered. From the demon’s back emerge finely feathered double wings. The hairy chest and narrow ribcage resemble those of a dog, while the short legs are that of a bird, covered in feathers at top and terminating in large claws. The tail is shaped like a scorpion; the small but erect penis appears to end in a snake’s head, as on other examples. Pazuzu stands on a row of scales representing mountains.

The plaque is missing the lower left corner. The stepped top is chipped. Other stone plaques of this shape have drill holes in the sides of the topmost part. These would have allowed suspension even if not fully drilled through. It is quite likely that this plaque, too, had such holes, which facilitated the breakage. Too heavy to be worn on the person as an amulet, the plaque could have been affixed to the wall of the room or building it was intended to protect. The prominent parts of the relief are abraded, chipped, and pitted; the back is heavily scratched but appears to have been blank.
Pazuzu is first attested in the late eighth century BCE; it has been proposed that this Mesopotamian demon was at least partly inspired by Bes, the Egyptian protective deity with whom he shared some of his grotesque features and also some spheres of activity. Amulets, plaques, and fibulae (safety pins) with the image of Pazuzu—often just his head—were used to ward off the female demon Lamashtu (who preyed upon women in childbirth and newborn children), to control disease-bringing winds, and likely also to protect against Pazuzu himself. For Assyrians, Babylonians, and other peoples of the ancient Middle East, the powerful demon fulfilled apotropaic functions and could be employed in healing rituals.

See Nils P. Heeßel, Pazuzu: Archäologische und philologische Studien zu einem alt-orientalischen Dämon (Leiden: Brill/Styx, 2002).

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/20/2024 - 05/05/2024

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at