Mesopotamian Art During the Akkadian Dynasty & Neo-Sumerian Period

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Art of the Babylonians: Style, Examples & Achievements

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Unity & Conflict
  • 1:01 Art During the…
  • 2:54 Art in the Neo-Sumerian Period
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

What kind of art did cultures in the ancient Near East create? On what subjects did they focus? In this lesson, we'll explore these answers as we look specifically at Mesopotamian art created during the Akkadian Dynasty and the Neo-Sumerian Period.

Unity and Conflict

Do you get along with your neighbors? In ancient Mesopotamia, a region of the ancient Near East in what is today Iraq, neighboring cities often challenged each other. From 2300 to 1800 BC, rival city-states came to power, ruled for a period, and then went into decline. This cycle meant power and cultural emphasis shifted over time. In this lesson, we'll explore the art of two phases, the Akkadian Dynasty and the Neo-Sumerian Period.

The Akkadian Dynasty began when a series of monarchs united Mesopotamia around 2300 BC. They ruled until around 2100 BC. The name 'Akkadian Dynasty' came from the capital city, Akkad, in the north of Mesopotamia. In contrast were the city-states of Ur and Lagash to the south. They became influential during the Neo-Sumerian Period, from roughly 2100 BC to around 1800 BC.

Art During the Akkadian Dynasty

The Akkadian Dynasty, founded by King Sargon around 2300 BC, ruled most of Mesopotamia for about two centuries. In a shift away from earlier Sumerian art, Akkadian art was more realistic. In bronzes, massive stone carvings and tiny cylinder seals, we see emphasis on naturalism. Cylinder seals were cylindrical stones carved with figures that when pressed into clay served as official signatures. People and animals were rendered in ways that made them recognizable as actual beings in the real world. Akkadian artists created human and animal forms that were sensitively modeled and full of dimensional form. Akkadian art often depicted kings and rulers in dynamic action and often in the midst of battle.

One masterpiece of Akkadian art is the Head of an Akkadian Ruler, created around 2250 BC. It's a fragment of a figural sculpture of an ancient ruler, possibly King Sargon. It's made of bronze and fully 3-dimensional, with details like mustache, beard and slightly curving lips stylized but rich in detail. Today, the head is missing its eyes, which once might have been inset with gemstones. But we recognize it as an actual person. It's a striking achievement of ancient art.

The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, made around 2200 BC, is another example of Akkadian art. A stele is a stone monument made of a single shaft or column. This victory stele is around eight feet high and full of dynamic action. It shows King Naram-Sin beating a rival tribe from the mountains. The king is larger than the other figures and at the top. The only figures above him are two sun-like orbs that represent the gods. The stele is done in a method called relief carving, where figures are raised from but still attached to the surface.

Art in the Neo-Sumerian Period

When the Akkadian Dynasty declined by 2100 BC, Mesopotamia again fell into factions ruled by various city-states. During this period, these cultures revived elements of Sumerian culture, and the characteristics of Mesopotamian art shifted dramatically.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account