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The Sargon Vase

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Sargon Vase
  • Description

    Glass jar belonging to Sargon II (720-710 BC): clear light green in colour, originally covered with a thick enamel-like opaque creamy weathering layer; the vessel has a pear shaped ovoid body, a flat rim, and a short and broad concave neck. The lip is small and the jar has two vertical lug handles. The base is convex. There is a sharp angle between shoulder and body, which is incised with figure of a pacing lion facing right, and a cuneiform inscription on both front and back. There are clearly visible drill rotation marks on the interior, from the inside of the neck to bottom which is slightly convex at the centre. There are small spherical bubbles in all parts of the vessel, with the largest concentration inside the lug handles.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 721BC-705BC (between)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 8.8 centimetres
    • Diameter: 6.2 centimetres (at handles)
    • Diameter: 5.7 centimetres (body)
    • Height: 1.6 centimetres (neck)
    • Diameter: 3.8 centimetres (rim)
    • Thickness: 0.7 centimetres (minimum thickness)
    • Thickness: 1.7 centimetres (maximum thickness)
    • Height: 2 centimetres (lug handles)
    • Width: 0.8 centimetres (lug handles)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        both sides
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Transliteration

        MAN KUR AŠ
      • Inscription Translation

        Palace of Sargon, King of Assyria. King of Assyria.
      • Inscription Comment

  • Curator's comments

    This important vessel is unique and has no close parallels, either in Assyria or in neighbouring areas. Barag (1985: 61) suggests that because the shape is comparable with an Egyptian vessel in rock crystal, the Sargon vase is possibly of Phoenician origin. In any case it was made using lapidary techniques. The inscription is certainly Assyrian, but could have been added later. The presence of the lion is interesting. It often occurs in association with inscriptions of Sargon, and is probably an official mark indicating that the article derives from or belongs to the palace or treasury of Sargon. The vessel was made by casting a solid block, drilling out the centre and cutting away large portions of the exterior to final polishing. There is thick weathering on the interior of the neck but this stops at the base of the neck but a thin residue of weathering inside implies that a limited amount of moisture entered the vesel when it was lying on its side. One deduction from these observations is that the vessel was full of a semi-solid material with an organic stopper when it was buried. As the stopper decayed and the contents solidified and shrank slightly, water penetrated the neck and a very small amount entered the vessel on its side. The contents were poresumably discarded after excavation and either then, or later in the nineteenth century, the thick weathering on the exterior must have been removed manually in order to reveal the colour of the glass.

    Compare with N.820 (BM.91534). Compare with BM.91521.
    Also cf. bowls from queen's tomb at Nimrud which belonged to daughter of Sargon.

    A. H. Layard, ‘Nineveh and its Remains’ vol. I (London, 1849), 343;
    A. H. Layard, ‘Nineveh and its Remains’ vol. II (London, 1849), 241;
    A. H. Layard, ‘Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon’ (London, 1853), fig. on p. 197.


  • Bibliography

    • Barag 1985a cat 26; pp. 60-61, fig. 2, pl. 3, col. pl. B bibliographic details
    • Curtis & Reade 1994a cat. 115 bibliographic details
    • Luckenbill D D 1927a p. 114, para 228.3 bibliographic details
    • Guide 1900a p.101 bibliographic details
    • Stern E M 1997a p.195, n. 17 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1991 pl.15, pp.20-21 bibliographic details
    • Zournatzi A 2000a pp. 700-701, fig.12 bibliographic details
    • Layard A H 1853a pp.196-97 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G55/dc13

  • Exhibition history


    2013 3 Jul-7 Sep, Okayama Orient Museum, Ancient Glass: Feast of Colour
    2013 7 Mar-3 Jun, Miho Museum, Ancient Glass: Feast of Colour
    2007 2 Apr-30 Sept, Alicante, MARQ Museum, 'Art and Empire'
    2006 1 Jul-7 Oct, Shanghai Museum, 'Art and Empire'
    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.2
    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.2
    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.2
    Babylonian & Assyrian Room, wall-cases 28-29 (1900 Guide)

  • Condition

    Thick ivory weathering around the inner surface of the neck; exterior damaged by pitting and deep fissures; iridescent.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • E.12084 (Old Egyptian
Glass jar belonging to Sargon II (720-710 BC); clear light green; probably cast, then ground and polished like stone; pear shaped ovoid body; flat rim, short and broad concave neck; small lip and two vertical lug handles; convex base; sharp angle between

Glass jar belonging to Sargon II (720-710 BC); clear light green; probably cast, then ground and polished like stone; pear shaped ovoid body; flat rim, short and broad concave neck; small lip and two vertical lug handles; convex base; sharp angle between

Image description



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