Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian

During the Sumerian period, a people known as the Akkadians settled north of Uruk.

 

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the form, content, and context of key Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian works
  • Define critical terms related to Akkadian and Neo-Sumerian works

 

During the period of the Akkadian Empire (2271-2154 BCE), sculpture of the human form grew increasingly naturalistic, and its subject matter increasingly about politics and warfare. A cast bronze portrait head believed to be that of King Sargon combines a naturalistic nose and mouth with stylized eyes, eyebrows, hair, and beard. Although the stylized features dominate the sculpture, the level of naturalism was unprecedented.

 

 

Photo portrays a bronze rendering of the face of an Akkadian ruler with strong features and a disfigured eye. The figure has an imposing beard and wears a headband.
Head of an Akkadian ruler, probably Sargon (2270-2215 BCE): This portrait combines naturalistic and stylized facial features and was cast using the lost-wax method. The eye sockets were once inlaid.

The Victory Stele of Naram Sin provides an example of the increasingly violent subject matter in Akkadian art, a result of the violent and oppressive climate of the empire. Here, the king is depicted as a divine figure, as signified by his horned helmet. In typical hieratic fashion, Naram Sin appears larger than his soldiers and his enemies. The king stands among dead or dying enemy soldiers as his own troops look on from a lower vantage point. The figures are depicted in high relief to amplify the dramatic significance of the scene. On the right-hand side of the stele, the cuneiform script provides a narration.

 

 

Photo of a slab depicting the scene described in the caption.
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin (12th century BCE): The king stands in the center of the stele wearing a horned headpiece. Dead and dying enemies surround him while his own soldiers passively observe.

The kingdom of Akkad ends with internal strife and invasion by the Gutians from the Zagros mountains to the northeast. The Gutians were ousted in turn and the city of Ur, south of Uruk, became dominant. King Ur-Nammu established the third dynasty of Ur, also referred to as the Ur III period.

 

Summary

  • During the period of the Akkadian Empire (2271-2154 BCE), sculpture of the human form grew increasingly naturalistic, and its subject matter increasingly about politics and warfare.

Adapted from¬†“Boundless Art History” https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/mesopotamia/¬†License: CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

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