Bucket and Cone / Cone-Smearing

Bucket and Cone refer to twin attributes that are frequently held in the hands of various genies depicted in Neo-Assyrian art (and especially palace reliefs) – sometimes, however, only the bucket is held. These objects are often displayed in association with a stylised tree, before floral decorations, guardian figures, the king and / or his attendants and open doorways or portals. The cone was apparently held up in the right hand, the bucket held hanging downwards in the left hand of the figure, which is almost always that of a winged genie or an animal-headed demon or monster (though not necessarily with the same negative connotations) – only very occasionally might these attributes be borne by a fully human figure.

As to the identity of the twin objects, the “cone” is generally recognised as a pine or fir cone (pinus brutia); alternative identifications suggest the male flower of the date palm, or as a clay model imitating the form of one or the other. The bucket was presumably either of metal or basketry and is though to have held either water or pollen or both.

Although explanatory texts regarding these objects are exceedingly rare, it does seem clear that they were together employed in rituals of purification, as revealed by their Akkadian names: banddudû (“bucket”) and mullilu (“purifier”).


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