early dynastic


Sumerian Statuette of a Smiling Worshiper, Early Dynastic III, c. 2800-2550 BC

The statuette is made of Alabaster, bitumen, lapis lazuli and possibly shell. The woman’s expression, almost “smiling”, is a distinctive feature of Mesopotamian figures; in reality, it was probably not a smile, but rather a demonstration of inner spirit and joy. The woman (who cannot be identified, lacking any inscription) is dressed in the so-called kaunakes, which was probably the archetypal ceremonial garment in the Mesopotamian Bronze Age.

Excavations in Mesopotamian temples have revealed a large number of male and female figurines that devotees commissioned and dedicated to various deities, as a testimony of their faith and to arrange for a constant presence near the deity. Typologically, while men and women are equally attested, seated figures are rarer than standing statuettes. Such ex-votos were deposited at the foot of the altar or on the offering table; they have been often discovered in favissae (votive deposits), where they were stored when the temples or the sanctuaries had to be cleared, to make room for new offerings. These statuettes were offered by prominent figures of the court or of the administration, by members of the religious staff, by wealthy people (merchants or dignitaries) or even by members of the royal families. The presence of an inscription, usually engraved in the back, could indicate the name and rank of the owner. Stylistically, this figurine is related to certain objects excavated at Mari and can therefore be dated to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.


Sumerian Lahmu Cylinder Seal, Early Dynastic, 2600-2400 BC

Carved of marble, with a contest scene of six figures, a nude hero with spiky hair holding a sword in one hand and an inverted lion in the other, Lahmu (hairy hero god) with head turned frontally, holding the same lion in one hand and grasping the hindquarters of an inverted ram in the other, the ram being mauled by a lion on the other side, its body crossed with a human-headed bull, a scorpion and recumbent quadruped in the field, the terminal with two crossed bulls with double line above.

In Sumerian mythology, Lahmu was a protective and beneficent deity, the first-born son of Apsu and Tiamat. He guarded the gates of the Abzu temple of Enki at Eridu. He and his sister Lahamu are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, the sky father and earth mother, who birthed the gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon. Lahmu is depicted as a bearded man with a three-strand sashed waist and four to six curls on his head.


Quoted from: “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt”, Oxford University Press, 2001 (by Denise M.Doxey)

A deity with a wide range of associations, including nature, cosmology, writing, science, Medicine, and the afterlife, Thoth (Eg. Djehuty) was worshiped throughout Egypt from the Early Dynastic period through Roman times. The meaning of his name is obscure. Because Thoth was the divine messenger, the Greeks associated him with Hermes, calling him Hermes Trismegistos (“thrice great Hermes"), a title probably derived from his Egyptian epithet p3 ‘3 ‘3 ‘3.
Thoth takes two major iconographic forms. As a squatting dog-headed baboon, he appears in figurines as early as the first dynasty (c.3050-2850 BCE). Early Dynastic slate palettes show ibises on standards, an image clearly associated with Thoth by the Old Kingdom. In later periods, he is frequently depicted as an ibis or ibis-headed human, often carrying the palette and pen of a scribe. His headdresses include the crescent moon and disk, the atef crown, and the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. In both baboon and ibis forms, Thoth is portrayed overseeing and protecting scribes. In scenes from temples, he and Horus anoint the king with water. They also pour libations over the deceased on cartonnage coffins of the Third Intermediate Period. In scenes of divine judgment, such as the vignettes accompanying chapter 125 of the Book of Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead), Thoth records and announces the verdict, typically appearing as an ibis-headed man, and sometimes as a baboon seated atop the scales of justice.
As a moon god, Thoth regulated the seasons and lunar phases and counted the stars. Hence, he was associated with astronomy, mathematics, and accounting. As the god of scribes and writing, Thoth, the “lord of the sacred word”, personified divine speech. Seshat, the goddess of writing and literature, was said to be either his wife or daughter. By the Middle Kingdom Thoth, as a god of wisdom and justice, was connected with Maat, the personification of rightness and world order. The Greeks viewed him as the source of all widow and the creator of languages.
At Hermopolis, Thoth was worshipped as a cosmogenic deity, believed to have risen on a mound from the primeval chaos to create the Ogdoad consisting of Nun, Naunet, Heh, Hehet, Kek, Keket, Amun, and Amaunet, coordinated male and female couplets representing various forces of nature. In solar religion, Thoth and Maat navigated the bark of Re. Some sources refer to him as the son of Re. The Book of Going Forth by Day describes him as returning Re’s eye, which had wandered away. According to Plutarch, after Re had forbidden Nut from giving birth during any month of the year, Thoth tricked the moon goddess Selene into giving him some of her light, which he used to create the five epagomenal days, on which Nut gave birth to the great Ennead. Texts from the Ptolemaic temples of Edfu and Dendera credit Thoth with traveling to Nubia on behalf of Re to pacify the raging Tefnut and persuade her to return to Egypt.
Textual evidence for Thoth and his cult is found throughout Egyptian history. The Pyramid Texts portray him as the advocate and protector of the deceased king, destoying his enemies and carrying him across the river if the ferryman refuses. The dead king may be transformed into a bird with the wings of Thoth. Thoth introduces the king to Re. He also appears as a lunar god, the nightly manifestation of Re, and as a god of thunder and rain. By the Old Kingdom, the festival of Thoth is regularly mentioned in funerary offering formulas. In the Middle Kingdom, the Coffin Texts associate Thoth with divine justice, claiming that his verdict can satisfy both Horus and Seth. The Book of Two Ways refers to the deceased as stars, which reside in the sky beside Thoth. Middle Kingdom instructions and tales regularly use Thoth as a metaphor for justice, and in funerary autobiographies, officials demonstrate their impartiality by claiming to be “truly precise like Thoth.”  In the New Kingdom, Thoth figures prominently in the Book of Going Forth by Day, of which he is said to be the author. He acts on behalf of the deceased before a series of divine tribunals; just as he had done for Osiris. He also conducts the interrogation, records the results of weighing the heart against maat, and announces the verdict. Hymns and prayers to Thoth, focusing on his role as patron of scribes, were used as school texts (as in Papyrus Anastasi V) and appear on statues of scribes. New Kingdom didactic literature, such as the Instructions of Amenemope, refers to Thoth as a symbol of justice. The Book of Thoth, believed to contain all knowledge of laws, magic, nature and the afterlife, figures prominently in the Ptolemaic stories of Neferkaptah and Setna-Khaemwaset, both of whom seek to appropriate the book’s information, only to suffer unforeseen consequences.
Thoth plays the role of aide and mediator in the Osiris legend. He assists Horus and Anubis in reconstructing the body of Osiris and teaches Isis the spells necessary to revive him. In one version, he heals the infant Horus after Isis finds him dead of a scorpion bite. He is a staunch advocate of Horus in his battle against Seth, finding and restoring Horus’s eye after Seth casts it away. He replaces the head of Isis after Horus cuts it off in a rage, and after Seth has eaten lettuce containing Horus’s semen. Thoth invokes the semen to appear as a sun disk from the head of Seth. Finally, he helps to bring the proceedings to a conclusion by suggesting that the Ennead contact Osiris for his opinion.
The principal cult center of Thoth was at Hermopolis, ancient Egyptian Khemenu near the modem town of el-Ashmunein. This was the site of a major New Kingdom temple, at which Amehotep III claims to have dedicated a pair of thirty-ton quartzite baboons. The biography of the fourth-century BCE high priest of Thoth, Petosiris, from his tomb at Tuna el-Gebel, recounts his renovation of the temple, said to house the egg from which Thoth had hatched, following the Persian invasion. Tuna el-Gebel was also the site of a massive fifth-century BCE cemetery of sacrificed baboons and ibises, as well as a sacred lake around which the ibises lived. Saqqara was home to a similar cemetery at which more than five hundred thousand ibises and baboons were buried in subterranean passageways; it was also the site of an oracle of Hermes Trismegistos. The Ogdoad of Hermopolis, headed by Thoth, was worshipped at Thebes because of its association with Amun. Sanctuaries of Thoth existed at a number of other sites as well.

Photo © In-Taier, 2015 (Ramesses II temple in Abydos)

I’m gonna start using Early Dynastic Sumerian statues as reaction images. 

Like, seriously

My body is ready…

Look at all these fucks I give Lugalzaggesi. Look at them. 

Sumerian Mother-of-Pearl Inlay, C. 2500 BC

The square plaque made for inlay into furniture or, perhaps, a musical instrument is incised with the figure of a standing bald-headed priest walking to the right and leading a long-horned bull. The priest grasps the bull by its head. Perhaps a ritual scene in a temple is represented here. Four large unopened floral buds decorate the background. A finely executed miniature artwork, this was once part of a luxury item.


Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

One of the earliest images of the development of agriculture.

Fragment of a vessel from the Temple of Shamash at Mari, Syria. The staetite relief depicts a man tending to a plant. (Early dynastic period I, c. 2900 BC).

Agriculture, growing crops rather than raising livestock, pre-dates the first cities by thousands of years. But at some point agricultural activity in Mesopotamia became more intensive and on a larger scale than had ever been seen before. The geography of southern Mesopotamia is such that agriculture is possible only with irrigation and good drainage, a fact which had a profound effect on the evolution of early civilisation. The need for irrigation led the Sumerians, and later the Akkadians, to build their cities along the Tigris and Euphrates and the branches of these rivers. The farmers built dams and dug canals to bring the water to the crops, on which all their lives now depended. The social consequences of this cooperation were profound; those farmers were planting the seed from which the tree of civilisation would grow.

The city of Mari, situated on the right bank of the Euphrates river, flourished in the 3rd millennium BC. Excavations discoved an enormous palace, with nearly 300 rooms and two floors and also an archive over 20.000 tablets in Akkadian language written in cuneiform. The temple of Shamash was dedicated to the Sun god, who was regarded among Mari’s most important deities.

National Museum of Damascus, Syria


Rare Egyptian Rock Crystal Sphinx Ring, New Kingdom, Rammesside Period, 19th-20th Dynasty, 1295-1069 BC

To date, there are virtually no examples of rings with three-dimensional representations of sphinxes on their bezels.

It is likely that this was believed to possess protective qualities, given that the ancient Egyptian sphinx was quintessentially one of the most powerful, protective creatures in the ancient Egyptian pantheon.

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Mesopotamian Gypsum Head Of A Male Worshipper, Syria, Early Dynastic III, 2550-2250 BC

Finely sculpted with a bald pate, with two raised horizontal folds of flesh at the back of the head, the eyes deeply hollowed for inlays, the lids modeled, the single double-arching brow also recessed for inlay, the rounded prominent nose with hollowed nostrils, the lips pressed together, divided by a thin groove that rises slightly at each end, the full beard composed of thick wavy strands enhanced by incised lines along their lengths, with three shorter strands before each ear that curl back at their tips
6 5/8 in (16.8 cm) high.

Mesopotamian Bronze Chariot Hunter, Early Dynastic, Mid-3rd Millennium BC

A very rare diorama on a rectangular framework base comprising: two stationary horses with halters attached to a round-section blustered yoke; a two-wheeled hunting chariot with stepped axle-tree and linch-pins to the solid wheels; a kilted hunter standing bare-chested and bearded holding the reins (part absent), with a slaughtered animal across the frame before him, game-bag behind to his left and quiver with arrows to his right; to the rear, a small hunting dog riding on the chariot’s beam.

The horse was first domesticated on the Eurasian steppe, its original habitat, perhaps as early as the 4th millennium BC; it may have been bred as a food source initially, but its use as a traction animal had begun by the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, replacing the ox for this purpose. Wheeled vehicles had already appeared in the 3rd millennium BC, but the spoked wheel is not evidenced until the late 2nd millennium BC. The earliest known physical remains of chariots are in the chariot burials of the Andronovo Culture, an Indo-Iranian population in the area of modern Russia and Kazakhstan dating to around 2000 BC.

The combination of multiple horses and light-framed two-wheeled vehicles offered the possibility of travel at speed, both for war and for hunting. Chariot warfare originated with the Hittites, with the invention of spoked wheels around 1900 BC. Depictions of hunting in a chariot appear in Egypt after the vehicle’s introduction by the Hyksos in the 16th century BC, notably at Abu Simbel where the Battle of Kadesh fought in 1274 BC is represented, showing Ramses II fighting from a chariot with two archers accompanying him (photo). There is a similar example made from gold that forms part of the Oxus Treasure now in the British museum.