Humanities Uncategorized

Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, and Minoan Statuary

When examined, the selected work of the Hittite statue of Sam-al Zincirli (c. 850 – 800 B.C.) (Fig. 1), the Assyrian statue of Shalmenesar II (c. 854-829 B.C) (Fig. 2), and the statue of Nen – Kheft – Ka constructed during the 5th dynasty in Egypt (Fig. ), show shared characteristics and styles of depiction despite their difference in culture. All three statues share rigidity and stiffness common in ancient Near Eastern art. It is the location of their arms, all positioned very close to their bodies, and their rigid posture that creates a sense stiffness and fixedness in their depictions. Appearance wise, the Hittite and the Assyrian pieces share the most in common. Both wear long outfits made of, what looks to be, heavy cloth. On the Assyrian work, highly ornamented fabric reaches all the way to their ankles with sleeves that end just above the elbow, which is similar to the Hittite statue. In addition, securing the long robe is a belt that between it and the robe are one or two knives. The depictions, also, have similar facial features; long beards and stern faces are shared characteristics. However, when it comes to the bone structure, the Hittite is depicted with wider check bones, very pronounced lips, and impossibly large eyes, which can be thought of as a cultural style unique to the Hittites.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

The Hittite, Assyrian and Egyptian statues also share some similar aspects. Apart from their ears, of which the Egyptian shows none, the helmet like head ware of the Egyptian is similar in style to that worn by Sam–al Zincirli, the Hittite. Also, the Assyrian styling of the eyebrows looks to be the same as the Egyptian if not only a little longer. Differences can be seen when analyzing and comparing the statues. The Egyptian stands out the most of the trio with his bare torso and calf area. Not to mention his contrapposto stance is very different from the straight and rigid pose taken by the statues from Assyria and Anatolia.  A difference in materials used can also be seen; whereas the Egyptians, who frequently applied paints, have painted a portion of the statue, the Hittites and Assyrians have not. This holds true throughout the vast majority of the Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian works of art; the Hittites and Assyrians refrained from marking heavily their art with paint whilst the Egyptians were much more liberal with the brush. Thus, a number of similarities and differences have been observed between the statues of Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian origination. It can be examined that the statues display both shared characteristics and characteristics that apply to only one culture.

A lack of Minoan statuary hinders any general analysis with no complete statue that resembles the examples of Assyria, Anatolia, and Egypt in stance or purpose. The closest statue to what would be the Palaikastro Kouros statue from 1480-1425 B.C. (See Figure 4 below).

Fig. 4

Similar to the Egyptian figure it is depicted in a contrapposto stance which shows the influence that Egypt had on Minoan culture as their closest trading partner. Also, like the Egyptian figure, the Minoan is more rounded and makes liberal use of gold, ivory and paint as decorative additions. However, the figure is more open and dynamic than its Egyptian counterpart. The arms are poised and tense, as though for some sort of action. Also, unlike the continental cultures, this statute is not carved from a single block of stone. Instead it is made from carved, decorated wood. It also is substantially smaller than its continental cousins, standing under two feet tall. Again, the lack of monumental human sculpture speaks to a cultural independence by the Minoans. Perhaps driven in part by a lack of adequate building materials, but more likely reflective of a wealthy, somewhat isolated culture that only superficially engaged with its trading partners.



  1. Assyrian Hero Statue C1500 BCE, Courtesy Wes Crnkovich/Istanbul Archaeology Museums
  2. Hittite Hero Statue C 1450 BCE, Courtesy Wes Crnkovich/Istanbul Archaeology Museums
  3. Walters museum of fine arts. Egyptian
  4. Palaikastro Kouros statue from 1480-1425 B.C.