Basalt lion head

Neo-Hittite, 9th century BC
From Carchemish, south-east Anatolia (modern Turkey)

A guardian lion from a statue base

This Neo-Hittite basalt lion's head was excavated at Carchemish by D.G. Hogarth and Leonard Woolley between 1911 and 1914. They were assisted by T.E. Lawrence (who would later become famous for his military exploits in Arabia during the First World War (1914-18)). They found numerous bases for statues, basins and altars decorated with supporting bulls or lions. This lion's head came from a pair of lions that guarded a base (now in Ankara) which supported the statue of a god and stood beside the 'Lion's Gate' of Carchemish. The lions were held by a griffin demon whose hand can be seen on the left of the head. The base and statue were smashed by looters during the First World War.

After the collapse of the Hittite empire around 1200 BC, Hittite culture survived in parts of Turkey and Syria which had once been under Hittite control. Carchemish was an example. These Neo-Hittites wrote Luwian, a language related to Hittite, using a hieroglyphic script first seen in the second millennium BC.

In the first millennium Carchemish consisted of a high citadel mound on the River Euphrates, a walled inner town and an outer town. Excavations revealed a processional way which led to the temple of the storm god and to a monumental stairway to the citadel. The whole complex was decorated with basalt and limestone sculptures.

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More information


D.G. Hogarth, Carchemish I (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)

C.L. Woolley, Carchemish III (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1952)

M. Vieyra, Hittite art, 2300-750 BC (London, A.Tiranti, 1955)


Length: 58.000 cm
Width: 33.000 cm
Height: 48.000 cm

Museum number

ME 118993


Excavated by D.G. Howarth and C.L. Woolley (1911-14)


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