Head of a male

Period: Old Babylonian

Date: ca. 2000–1600 B.C.

Geography: Southern Mesopotamia

Culture: Babylonian

Medium: Ceramic, paint

Dimensions: H. 7 1/16 × W. 5 1/2 in. (18 × 14 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1972

Accession Number: 1972.96


During the Old Babylonian period after the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur, much of the Middle East—from western Syria to southern Iraq—was ruled by dynasties that claimed Amorite lineage. Amorite, a Semitic dialect like the Akkadian used earlier in Mesopotamia, had been spoken by nomads in the north since the mid-third millennium B.C. The most famous of these rulers was Hammurabi of Babylon, who is remembered for his monumental code of laws but was one of many powerful rulers who traded, negotiated, and fought with their neighbors. Temples played a smaller role in the economy of the Old Babylonian period than they had previously, but they remained significant in many ways.

This head, which originally would have been painted, was most likely set up in a temple. It is solid clay with an opening at the base that served to attach it to a mount or to a lower body, perhaps of wood. Its large, attentive eyes recall those of Early Dynastic worshiper figurines, but its large size suggests a possible role as a guardian figure.