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Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, Akkadian, pink limestone, 2254-2218 B.C.E. (Louvre, Paris) This monument depicts the Akkadian victory over the Lullubi Mountain people. In the 12th century B.C.E., 1,000 years after it was originally made, the Elamite king, Shutruk-Nahhunte, attacked Babylon and, according to his later inscription, the stele was taken to Susa in what is now Iran. A stele is a vertical stone monument or marker often inscribed with text or relief carving. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user John
    What happened to Naram-Sin's face? Was it worn off through time, or was it intentionally removed as a sign of disrespect or some other reason?
    (7 votes)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user rodney
    how do archeologist find out how old some these stone carvings are?
    (3 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Ink Centric
      Archaeological dating techniques would fill a lecture course by themselves.

      There are absolute dating methods which are derived from historical records, environmental processes (annual flood, tree ring growth), radiocarbon (for organic materials), thermoluminescence (pottery, burnt material) and a variety of other scientific techniques.

      Then there are relative dating methods: where and how the object was found, the style of any decoration, the language used for any inscription, the material, tools and methods used to make it. The typological sequences for artifacts are frequently revised.
      (15 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Graphlord
    why are their 2 suns
    (1 vote)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user HHoney
    Is Mesopotamia real?
    (0 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user roger
    Was there any color ever used on the surface? Has it all been worn off?
    (6 votes)
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  • leaf grey style avatar for user Hill
    I've always read that there was only two stars at the top of the stele, yet i believe, like at it appears that there are three stars. Does anyone else see this?
    (4 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user daibach
      Look at the style of the stars, one pointed followed by a flat all way around. You can see the remains of the same style (star on right) at which shows a point above it, and at a flat part of a star.
      Also I believe there is a second tree below the first with as described shows a feeing force. Throughout history it has been known that if you have the higher ground you have a better chance of winning. With this victory against a force which is above you would have been glorious. Yes it shows him killing them while they beg for their lives, and to me it also shows that his forces on the ground chased them into a wooded area or forest killing them too.
      I am wondering as to what the big dome shape is... almost looks like a mountain peak or space ship? Must have some symbolic meaning?
      The king is also carrying a spear, bow, and axe... he's well armed!
      (2 votes)
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user rodney
    there seemed to be some text carved in vertically was that cuniform or some other known language of Acadians?
    (3 votes)
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  • winston default style avatar for user Reepicheep
    what is a stele?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf grey style avatar for user 𝕎𝕙i̶τε 𝕎øℓƒ
    how would they carve these into the stone?
    (1 vote)
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  • leafers tree style avatar for user Julian Falco
    There is an inscription on the the mountain next to Naram-Sin, does anyone know what it reads?
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

SPEAKER 1: We're in the Louvre, and we're looking at the victory stele of Naram-Sin. This is a really old stele. It's a really old relief sculpture. It is 4,200 years old. It was made, we think, in approximately 2200 BCE. Now Naram-Sin was the great-great-grandson of the founding king of the Akkadians, Sargon. And this stele commemorates a really important victory of his. SPEAKER 2: It commemorates a victory over the Lullubi people, who are mountain people who lived in the eastern region of Mesopotamia. Now normally victory scenes like this from ancient Mesopotamia are shown in registers. In other words, the scene is divided into horizontal bands. Here the artist has created a new kind of composition where we see Naram-Sin at the top, and a diagonal [INAUDIBLE]. On the left, underneath Naram-Sin we see his soldiers climbing the mountain. And then on the right, the vanquished, falling, and defeated, and wounded. SPEAKER 1: What I find so interesting is that Naram-Sin's army is so disciplined, they don't break ranks, they're marching in line, there are standard-bearers followed by those with weapons, whereas on the right, you have all kinds of chaos. SPEAKER 2: And Naram-Sin is so erect and noble-looking, and clearly associated with the gods compared to the mortals that surround him. One of the things that I noticed immediately is how everyone's gaze-- or nearly everyone's gaze-- is directed at Naram-Sin himself. So his soldiers look up at him, the vanquished turned towards him. He is clearly the focal point of this composition. SPEAKER 1: One of the aspects that I love most about this are the vanquished, I have to say. You have one of the vanquished mountain people who are actually being literally thrown off the mountain. You can see him upside down falling as if he's falling into water. We see somebody else literally under Naram-Sin's foot, somebody with a spear in his neck. And then most interestingly, I think, to the extreme right, profiled against the mountain, is a man who is fleeing, because you can see that his feet are facing away from Naram-Sin, but he's also turned around-- turned back and pleading as he flees. SPEAKER 2: Clearly what we're seeing is using a symbolic language. This isn't supposed to be a naturalistic representation of an army climbing a mountain, but a symbolic image that tells the story, through symbols, of this event. And so we see Naram-Sin, much larger than everyone else, with his shoulders frontal, his head in profile, and close to the deities at the top, who are represented by what look like suns. SPEAKER 1: Right. The suns, or the stars above, are the forces that have helped guide him to victory. But also, and this is important, he's wearing a horned helmet, which is for the Akkadians a symbol of divinity. So through this victory he is actually assuming the importance and the status of the gods. And in fact, the whole ascension to the mountaintop certainly supports this idea. He's rising into the realm of the heavenly.