ancient-near-east

3

“The fabulous griffin figure evolved out of a long pictorial tradition of fantastic animals. On the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, there is a depiction of the Mushhushshu, a long-necked quadruped with the head and scaly body of a snake. This was the emblem of Marduk, war god and protector of the city. The griffin was a Susian creation of the late 4th millennium that became widespread, in many forms. An accounting tablet, for example, bears the mark of a cylinder seal showing a winged griffin followed by an antelope (Louvre Museum, sb4837). Many images of the griffin have been been found dating from the Neo-Elamite period, including one in bricks, shown passing before a tree, used as an element of architectural decoration (Louvre Museum, sb3370). Griffins facing each other also feature on the walls of the palace at Persepolis, built by Darius I, like the palace at Susa. The meaning of this imaginary animal remains unclear: it may refer to ancient Elamite religions and as such may represent an area of the Persian empire.” [x]

“Excavation of Persepolis (Iran): Gate of All Lands, Colossal Sculpture Depicting a Bull: View before Excavation, Looking North-East”

1923-1928

glass negative from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers

Freer and Sackler Galleries

He was the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra for more than 40 years. When daesh (the so-called Islamic state) took control of the region, he refused to tell them where he had hidden priceless ancient artifacts (to keep them safe from the group). For his actions, they labeled him an idolater and an apostate; and they had him publicly beheaded. He was brave and loyal unto death, refusing to betray his beloved city. He chose to die rather than bow to the terror group. Thus, may he feast with the gods and the great heroes in the afterlife! And may daesh be trampled and crushed until they are no more than ash and dust! 

- Keith A. Fair

A Babylonian Princess Poet

Enheduanna, the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE), composed numerous poems and hymns, such as the one above written in Sumerian and dedicated to the goddess Inanna (the Sumerian counterpart to Ishtar). During her lifetime, Enheduanna served as a high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, in the city of Ur. A genuine creative talent, she is also remembered as one of the first named authors in history. Although the tablet above is somewhat damaged, it provides a good example of a later copy of one of her hymns, which shows that her work continued to be read and taught in scribal schools well into the second millennium BCE. (Source)

Schoyen Collection, MS 2367/1.

Sumerian Dedication Nail

Lagash (present-day Telloh, Iraq), ca. 2100 BC (Neo-Sumerian)

Body H: (16 x 4.5 cm); Diam of Head: (6.9 cm)

Clay nails such as this one inscribed with the name of King Gudea of Lagash were embedded in the upper parts of walls, sometimes with the head protruding. They may have developed from the custom of hammering a peg into a wall to signal ownership. This example bears a dedication to a deity and would have symbolically marked a temple as divine property.

(In the Walters Museum of Art)