Collection Description

Tradition Name


Tradition Description

The Akkadian tradition started circa 4334 BP with the kingship of Sargon the Great in the city of Akkade on the Tigris river in Iraq, through his conquering the Sumerians, and continued to circa 4112 BP when the Akkadian empire collapsed. It is during this time period that Mesopotamian kings were first considered to be deities. At the height of their territorial expansion the Akkadian tradition extended from eastern Syria, through Mesopotamian Iraq, and into southwestern Iran. They used cuneiform writing, had standard weights and measures, and used copper. Their economy was based on dry farming of cereal, irrigation agriculture, and animal husbandry.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle East --Middle East





OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Akkadian collection consists of 47 documents, all in English. The documents discuss the Akkadian tradition in Iran, Iraq, and Syria from 4334 BP – 4112 BP (2334 BC – 2112 BC).

Readers will find there is some overlap in the time periods and material culture with Early Dynastic Mesopotamia (MH64 collection). Although each collection is marked for OCM (Outline of Cultural Materials) codes that pertain only to its own time period and area, readers are encouraged to examine the documents in the other collection for additional information.

Several documents discuss the political institutions of the Akkadian tradition. Liverani (1993, no. 1), discusses the development of the political institutions of the Akkad dynasty. Foster (1993, no. 3) looks at management and administration during the Sargonic period. Michalowski (1993, no. 5) examines the spread of Sargonic influence throughout northern Mesopotamia and Syria. Oates (2001, no. 18) studied the seals and sealings from Tell Brak for evidence of the administration of Tell Brak. Felli (2001, no. 19) also examined seal use to show that the Akkadian empire was in northern Syria before the time of Narim-Sin. Frayne 1993, no. 46 analyzed a large collection of royal inscriptions pertaining to kings of the Akkadian and Gutian periods. Westenholz 1997, no. 48 examines the legends told about the feats and deeds of the kings of Akkade. Cooper 1993, no. 2 also uses literature, but he examines the Akkadian empire as the prototype for future dynasties. Liverani (1993, no. 4) is critical about the use of this type of literature to reconstruct the Akkadian dynasty. Steinkeller 1993, no. 7 looks back in time to see what preceded the rise of Sargon. Westenholz 1993, no. 9 examines the world view of government officials and their attitudes towards others in society. To understand the abbreviations used in the references for documents nos. 1-10 see Liverani 1993, no. 12.

Three documents deal with more general topics. Nissen 1993, no. 6 looks at the changes in settlement patterns and material culture during the Akkadian period. While Weiss and Courty 1993, no. 8 and Weiss et al. 1993, no. 47 describe how an environmental change brought on the collapse of the Akkadian empire. Courty 2001, no. 40 discusses this regional blast event and describes how archaeologists can recognize it during their excavations.

The rest of the documents discuss the excavations and analyses from field work at Tell Brak in northern Syria. Oates, Oates, and McDonald 2001, no. 14 provide an introduction to eHRAF documents nos. 14-46. Wilkinson et al. 2001, no. 15 places the site within its geoarchaeological context. Oates and Oates 2001, no. 16 describe the excavations at the site. Eidem, Finkel and Bonechi 2001, no. 17 provide evidence that Tell Brak was the ancient city of Nagar. The pottery from the site is discusses in Oates 2001, no. 20 and Schneider and Daszkiewicz 2001, no. 21. Other ceramic artifacts are discusses by McDonald 2001, no. 30 and French 2001, no. 31. The glass, frit, and faience objects are described by Oates 2001, no 22, Brill and Shell 2001, no. 23, and Henderson 2001, no. 24. McDonald 2001, no. 25 covers the ornaments. The metal artifacts are described and analyzed by McDonald, Curtis and Maxwell-Hyslop 2001, no. 26 and Northover 2001, no. 27. Oates 2001, no. 29 describes the various stone artifacts. While the artifacts made from organic materials are described in Oates 2001, no. 33. Plant remains were analyzed by Charles and Bogaard 2001, no. 34. Faunal remains are covered by Roselló Izquierdo and Morales Muñiz 2001, no. 36 and Weber 2001, no. 37. Animal burials, probably sacrifices, are described by Clutton-Brock 2001, no. 35. The human remains, which may also be sacrifices, are discussed by Molleson 2001, no. 38. Oates 2001, no. 32 examines the various uses of equids by the people at Tell Brak. Hansen 2001, no. 28 describes a human-faced bison sculpture that was found at the site. The use and abandonment of two monumental building complexes at Tell Brak are discusses by Mathews et al (2001, no. 39). Ambers 2001, no. 41 goes over the radiocarbon dates. Oates and Oates 2001, no. 42 then summarize the work at Tell Brak. The remaining three documents on Tell Brak are artifact drawings (Oates et al. 2001, nos. 43-45), information on the artifact photographs, and a list and description of the various loci discussed in the text.

The last two documents are bibliographies: Foster 1993, no. 10 is a select bibliography on the time of Sargon and Oates et al (2001, no. 13) is the references for documents nos. 14 to 46.

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstract in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Sarah Berry

Akkadian political hegemony – use "DEPENDENCIES (636)"

BAR.AN – Akkadian for the kunga equid - use "DOMESTICATED ANIMALS (231)"

Bulla (plural bullae) – a lump of clay molded around a knot in a cord or string that was attached to a container and stamped with a seal. After the clay dried the container could not be opened without visible damage to the bulla, thereby ensuring the contents remained tamper-proof. Use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

Caravanserai/caravansary - use "TRAVEL SERVICES (485)"

Charioteers - use "VEHICLES (493)"

Clay sealing – a design or impression of a seal - use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

Cones – cones inserted into walls as decoration – use "VISUAL ARTS (5311)"

Cylinder seals – use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

Dockets – use "ARCHIVES (217)"

Drains – inside buildings use "MISCELLANEOUS BUILDING EQUIPMENT (355);" out side buildings use "REFUSE DISPOSAL AND SANITARY FACILITIES (364)"

Drivers - use "VEHICLES (493)"

Dynasty of Sargon - use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)"

Ensi – city ruler - use "CITIES (633)"

FS closure deposits - use "PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782)"

Gurus or Gurush - "young fellows," a person of the semi-free class, they were the vast majority of people and the chief labor force - use "CITIZENSHIP (641);" when referring to status - use "CLASSES (565)"

Genitalia straps – straps placed over the genitalia of equids to prevent mating, seen on art work – use "ANIMAL TRANSPORT (492)"

Hybrid equid – a donkey-onager hybrid, use "DOMESTICATED ANIMALS (231);" as draft animals use "ANIMAL TRANSPORT (492)"

Juss plaster – also known as Guss plaster or gypsum plaster- use "MASONRY (333)"

Kunga – an equid, probably a donkey-onager cross, use "DOMESTICATED ANIMALS (231);" as draft animals use "ANIMAL TRANSPORT (492)"

Kusarikku – a mythological human-faced male bison associated with the sun god, use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776);'' for sculptures depicting this creature use "VISUAL ARTS (5311)"

Libn – an Arabic word meaning sun dried mud brick - use "MASONRY (333)"

Model wagons/model wagon wheels – see Toy wagons/toy wagon wheels

Naram-Sin – grandson of Sargon - use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)"

Pisé - pressed clay - use "MASONRY (333)"

Pot marks or potters’ marks – use "MNEMONIC DEVICES (211)" or if clearly denoting ownership use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

Records – use "ARCHIVES (217)"

Riding - use "ANIMAL TRANSPORT (492)"

Ritual closing of SS and FS monumental complexes – use "PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782)"

Ritual closure deposits - use "PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782)"

Sargon of Akkade – founder of the Akkadian Empire – use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)"

- "grain"

Seal impressions - use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

Sealing – wet clay that was added onto the fastening of a container, or the clay closure itself, that has had a design impressed into it. The design either identifies the owner or identifies the container’s contents – use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422)"

SS closure deposits - use "PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782)"

Stamps - use "VISUAL ARTS (5311)"

Stamp seal – use "PROPERTY IN MOVABLES (422);" for the design or impression of the sealing - use "MNEMONIC DEVICES (211)"


Tablets - use "WRITING (212)"

Tokens – Small objects most likely used as counting devices. Use "MNEMONIC DEVICES (211);" for tokens used as aids in counting - use "NUMERATION (802);" for tokens used for listing items or as booking - use "ACCOUNTING (451)

Toy wagons/toy wagon wheels – use "VEHICLES (493)"

Wall cones – cones inserted into walls as decoration – use “VISUAL ARTS (5311)”

The major tradition summary is from “Akkadian,” by Harvey Weiss from the Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Volume 8, Peter N. Peregrine and Melvin Ember, eds. New York: Plenum Publishing Corporation, 2002. We thank Peter N. Peregrine for bibliographic suggestions. Sarah Berry wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in 2008.

Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

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