This large relief from Courtyard VIII, which extends over three complete slabs and at least a fourth incomplete slab, depicts the transportation of wooden beams by water. The hewn timber has been loaded onto boats on the right side of the scene. They are loaded with planks or tow logs behind them, while others return empty, probably to transport a new load. It is clearly a very large convoy.

Aquatic creatures

The moving water is depicted as a series of small stylised waves. It is teeming with aquatic animals such as fish, crabs, tortoises and shrimps, and magical creatures such as mermen and winged bulls. The creatures swim alongside the boats. They probably guarantee the safe transportation of the timber and protect the cargo.

Varying interpretations

As there are two fortresses in the scene, it was initially thought to depict the maritime transport of tribute. Some experts believe the fortresses represent the cities of Tyre and Arwad on the Lebanese coast, in which case the boats may be Phoenician vessels transporting wood requisitioned by Sargon to Khorsabad. It may also be Cyprus and a Phoenician port.

The scene may also depict a stage in the construction project, when the timber is being transported to the palace. According to Sargon's correspondence, some of the timber was stored in Ashur and sent to Khorsabad by ship.

Whichever interpretation is correct, the size of this relief and its location in the Throneroom courtyard suggest the scene was important enough for the king to want to draw attention to it.