Near Eastern Art :
Assyrian Art : Stone Head of a Bearded Man, Possibly King Sargon of Akkad
Stone Head of a Bearded Man, Possibly King Sargon of Akkad - SF.089
8.15" (20.7cm) high
x 2.8" (7.1cm) wide
Collection: Near Eastern
Additional Information: Art Logic—CJ Martin, 2007
Location: Great Britain
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Although archaeological excavations reveal that the land of the Assyrians had been inhabited as
early as 5000 B.C., it was not until the reign of King Sargon of Akkad in 2371 B.C. that the
Assyrians first rose to glory. Under Sargon, the kingdom rapidly expanded north to the city of
Ashur and as far west as the Mediterranean, controlled by a central government based in Akkad.
By 1813 B.C., King Shamshi-Adad I united the cities of Ashur, Nineveh, and Arbel into one cohesive
administrative unit. These three cities, as well as Arrapkha and Kalhu (later known as Nimrud), form
the historical core of the Assyrian Kingdom which would remain a credible force throughout the
Mediterranean world for the next millennium. While various parts of Assyrian territory were
annexed for brief periods of time by neighboring civilizations, this core remained firmly intact. The
Assyrians experienced another Golden Age, lasting from the 9th until the 7th Century B.C. (this
period is referred to as “Neo- Assyrian”). During this period, the kingdom grew to its largest extent,
encompassing the lands from parts of modern Iran to the Mediterranean, from Anatolia to Egypt.
However, it proved difficult even for the powerful Assyrian monarchs to maintain control over this
vast territory for very long. By the end of the 7th Century, the Assyrian Kingdom began to collapse
under the weight of assaults from the Babylonians to the south and the newly founded Medes
Kingdom to the east. In 612 B.C., Nimrud burned for the second time in three years, followed by the
sacking of Ashur and Nineveh, effectively ending Assyrian control of the ancient Near East.
This head is broken off from a statuette at the neck, of which more is preserved at the front than at
the back. The general shape is well achieved, and the features are naturalistically rendered, with a
straight nose, big eyes, a moustache on top of the lips and hanging down at each side of the lips.
The beard is rendered in curls and runs down from the bottom of the hat to the lower neck, where
the break occurs, completely covering the chin. An elaborate earring hangs from each ear. A tight
fitting hat rests on top of the head, with a conical point, the whole slanting a little bit backwards.
The lower parts of the hat would have been covered with decoration. The decoration continues
without interruption to the edge of the hat, and continues all around.
The sculpture possibly depicts the head of King Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great
(c. 2334-2279 BCE). Sargon the Great was the first ruler of the Akkadian Empire, and conquered
the Sumerian city-states in the 24th-23rd centuries BCE. Notably, he is considered by some to be
the first person in recorded history to rule over an empire. King Sargon founded the “Sargonic” or
“Old Akkadian” dynasty, which was in power until the Gutian conquest of Sumer. His empire’s
territory included most of Mesopotamia and parts of the Levant, with its capital in Akkad.