Head of a man, fragment of a relief sculpture from Room N in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II (r. 721-700 BCE) at ancient Dur-Sharrukin = present-day Khorsabad, Iraq. Now in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.
Reliefs from the northwest façade of the main court of Assyrianking Sargon II’s palace at Dur Sharrukin, modern Khorsabad. (7th century BC.
The reliefs have no inscriptions. The most commonly accepted interpretation is that they depict Phoenician boats (with their characteristic horsehead shape of the bow) transporting timber from Lebanon, intended for Sargon’s palace, along the Phoenician coast.
Dur Sharrukin, (in Akkadian: Sargon’s Fortress) was an ancient Assyrian city located northeast of Nineveh, in Iraq. In 717 BC Sargon II ordered the construction of a new palace-city, his new capital. The city was built, from Sargon’s design, to form a near perfect square from which rose a “palace without rival” (as Sargon described it) and a four-story ziggurat. The city measured about 1.11 square miles and was surrounded by a high wall (12 meters). Soon after Dur Sharrukin was finished, however, Sargon II was killed in battle (705 BC) and the city was abandoned.
The friezes from the king’s palace illustrate various subjects: Phoenician civilization, trade, the construction of Assyrian palaces and the cedars of Lebanon. When Khorsabad was discovered by the French Consul General at Mosul, P.E. Botta in 1844, the friezes were severely damaged but have been partly reconstructed from drawings made by the French orientalist, painter and archaeologist Eugène Flandin.