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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
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MESOPOTAMIAN
Lama Deity
2100-2000 BC
Serpentine

4 3/4 x 7 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson in honor of Caroline Wiess Law

Department of Antiquities

 
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Mesopotamian lama deities were kind, protective spirits associated with the great sun god Shamash. This deity is depicted with a sensitive face, luxurious beard, and flowing locks of hair, and he wears a horned crown. The body is that of a reclining bull.

Representations of bulls with human heads are found throughout the art of Mesopotamia. In an inscription, an Assyrian king called upon lama deities to "turn back an evil person, guard the steps, and secure the path of the king who fashioned them." Several statuettes, about 4,000 years old, have survived. They come from various Sumerian sites and Syria.

This example is made from serpentine, a smooth green stone the color of life-giving water in a desert area. The hollowed-out shapes on the body originally were inlaid with pearly shell or lapis lazuli.