3rd dynasty


Extremely Rare Neo-Sumerian Palace Messenger Tablet from Iri-Sagrig, Dated 2027 BC

A clay pillow-shaped messenger tablet from an important palace archive of the Sumerian city Iri-Saĝrig, dated to 2027 BC, with cuneiform text on both sides: “1 roasted mutton, 5 sila soup Ur-šu-suen, chancellor’s assistant when he came for the ’secretary’ of Nana’s field; 3 sila soup, 2 fish Laqipum, cup bearer, royal messenger when he went for royal offerings; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Kuganum, royal messenger; /REVERSE/ 1 sila soup, 1 fish Ilianum, royal messenger when they went to Der; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Namhani, royal messenger; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Lu-šulgira, royal messenger when they came to the governor’s place; 2 sila soup, 2 fishŠugatum, royal messenger when he came to capture fugitive soldier-workers, servants of Ninhursag; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Pululu, eguary when he went for the sikum-mules; A disbursement for the month Nigenlila, 19th day.”

This text dates to the second year of King Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the Ur III. The text is particularly rare because almost all of the named messengers are followed by a description their mission: “Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place.” The tablet records rations of food and drink distributed by the government to royal messengers. According to Prof. David Owen the Iri-Saĝrig archive is probably the archive of the governor whose office was in the local palace. The king and other members of the royal family occasionally traveled to Iri-Saĝrig, perhaps on their way to or from Nippur or other towns. No town in Sumer was visited more often by the king than Iri-Saĝrig. This may explain the presence of so many royal functionaries associated with the town.

Ancient Chinese knotted dragon pendant in jade, dated towards the end of the Warring States period in the 3rd century BCE. More specifically, the pendant dates to the Eastern Zhou dynasty, which lasted until 249 BCE. The pendant is currently located in the Met.

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Survived, Beheaded, Survived 

The Tomb of Hesy-re

The tomb has a solid mud brick superstructure, which included a niched palace façade. Like elite tombs of the 2nd dynasty, the southernmost east niche was the most significant, giving way to a doorway leading into a painted corridor with more niches. At the rear of these niches,  a carved wooden panel was placed (that’s a lot of times to say niche in one paragraph!). These panels are probably the most significant element of the tomb, and they are gorgeous. But more on those later.

The palace façade was similar to Djoser’s funerary complex at Saqqara.
Palace façades in elite tombs during the 3rd Dynasty were a throwback from the 1st Dynasty, and recalled the funerary architectural features of the Pharaoh. However, only some tombs had them - this suggests that a façade could have been a costlier and unnecessary part of tomb architecture for nobility at the time that could have served as an indicator of status, and linked the deceased with the pharaoh by emulating their tombs. Hesy-re was certainly favourable to the Pharaoh, with the quality of the art within his tomb suggestive of royal craftsmanship, as well as the many titles bestowed upon him and his prestigious status.

Painted patterns that imitated reed matting were still preserved on the façade - this patterning emulated earlier textures when reed matting was used to form the walls.

Burial Chamber

The chamber had been robbed in antiquity, and was half full of stone. Quibell discovered the fragmentary remains of 1-2 human skeletons, however they were eventually lost after the man sent down to retrieve them was attacked by a swarm of fleas and left the bones there. Now that’s a new excuse to use for the next uncompleted assessment! Some grave goods and pottery were, despite the fleas, recovered.

Wooden Panels

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Sumerian clay tablet case with cuneiform inscription and multiple seal impressions. The tablet case dates back to Neo-Sumerian 3rd Dynasty of Ur (2094-2047 BCE). The inscription reads: “Shulgi, mighty man, king of Ur, king of the four quarters, En-dingir-mu, the rider, is your servant.” Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA.   

Photo by Babylon Chronicle