This unique glass jar was discovered in the nineteenth century by the excavator Henry Layard. Although it comes from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC), it actually dates to a later period. A cuneiform inscription on it reads: 'Palace of Sargon King of Assyria', hence its modern name. The inscription is accompanied by an engraving of a lion. The lion, often occurring with inscriptions of Sargon II (reigned 722-705 BC), is probably an official mark indicating that the article derives from or belongs to Sargon's palace or treasury.
The jar has no close parallels either in Assyria or in neighbouring areas. It may be of Phoenician origin, and the cuneiform inscription may have been added for its new Assyrian owner.
Glass vessels are known in the ancient Near East from as early as the second millennium BC. They were made by building glass up around a clay core, which was afterwards removed. By the time this jar was produced however, glass vessels were being cast, probably by the lost wax technique (*), and then finished by grinding and polishing.
Height: 8.5 cm
Diameter: 6.2 cm (at handles)
Excavated by A.H. Layard
ANE (Department of the Ancient Near East) 90952
Room 55, Later Mesopotamia, case 8
J.E. Curtis and J.E. Reade (eds), Art and empire: treasures from Assyria in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1995), p. 146, no. 115
A.H. Layard, Nineveh and its remains, 2 volumes (London, J. Murray, 1849), vol. I, p. 342; vol II, p. 421
A.H. Layard, Discoveries in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (London, J. Murray, 1853), p. 197
(*) An exact model of the item to be cast in metal is first made in wax, which is soft and easily modelled. The wax model is carefully enclosed in clay and baked to harden it. The melted wax is poured out through a hole in the mould. Molten metal is then poured through the hole into the cavity. Once the metal has cooled and hardened the clay mould is broken open and the casting removed and cleaned.