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Head of a Lion

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

The Achaemenid rulers of Persia (modern Iran) established an empire that lasted from 559 b.c. until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 b.c. By that time, the Persian Empire controlled an area extending from Egypt through present-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey into India. The Achaemenid kings built huge palace complexes at Persepolis and Pasargadae in southern Iran and hired craftsmen from throughout the world to decorate them with sculpture and reliefs.

This fragmentary lion’s head—representing an eye and part of the muzzle—was part of the decoration of a palace. The modeling of its facial folds is highly stylized and, as on all Achaemenid representations of lions, its mouth is open to snarl or roar.

CULTURES Persian; Achaemenid
MEDIUM Bituminous limestone
  • Place Made: Iran
  • DATES 5th-4th century B.C.E.
    PERIOD Persian Achaemenid Period
    DIMENSIONS 8 7/8 x 9 13/16 in. (22.6 x 25 cm)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Collection of Robin B. Martin
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