Exceedingly Rare Sumerian Green Chalcedony Cylinder Seal of King Kurigalzu II, Kassite, 14th Century BC
A chrome chalcedony cylinder seal with seated profile figure and Sumerian cuneiform inscription in eight columns; depicting a seated bearded divine figure facing left, holding a trident, three right-facing locusts above; the eight lines of scholarly Sumerian cuneiform text with a prayer to Ninurta for the prosperity of Kurigalzu’s reign. The seal fitted with an antique gold pin passed through the original longitudinal perforation and a loop to enable it to be worn as a pendant. Translation (by Professor Lambert) for each column:
(1) dkur-da-ru gada gìr / ‘Ninurta, powerful lord’ (2) saĝ kal šà-aš-DU / 'special chief, foremost’ (3) ururu mah an-ta-ğál / 'the lofty city (?) being in heaven’ (4) ur-saĝ dili-ni rib-ba / 'champion on his own standing out’ (5) [diğir] ní-su-ši ri-a / 'the god moving with a halo of terror’ (6) ku-ri-gal-zu / ’(on) Kurigalzu’ (7) nun nì tuku-tuku-zu / 'the prince who reveres you’ (8) bala šà dùg-ga ğar-bi / 'place a reign of sweet heart’.
The extremely rare green variety of chalcedony was only known to the ancients and the Romans, until circa 3rd century AD, when it disappears from history. It is only known from small worked pieces such as beads and intaglios. The source has been recently discovered as being from northern Turkey (Anatolia). The color derives from the presence of chromium.
The Akkadian equivalent of “in the care of” or “in the keeping of” is “in/with the SKULL of”?? Babysitting in the Old Babylonian period must have been awkward “yes everything’s fine, the children are in my skull, ciao”
Babylonian Bronze Four-Faced Statuette, Old Babylonian Period, 18th-17th Century BC
Possibly from the archaeological site of Ishchali (ancient Nêribtum) in Iraq. Illicit diggers found this four-faced statuette, which may represent a god of the four winds. The god wears a low cap with a pair of horns meeting above each face. He carries a scimitar in his right hand and places his left foot upon the back of a crouching ram.
Mesopotamian religion had its roots in the worship of nature, such as the wind, water and animals. The forces of nature were originally worshipped as entities unto themselves. However over time, the human form became associated with these gods. In this example each face may represent each of the four winds. It is interesting to note that style of garment the figure is wearing is very similar to the manner in which the god Enki is commonly portrayed.
Neo-Babylonian Amuletic Cylinder Seal, C. 600-401 BC
This lapis lazuli seal shows a worshipper before two altars adorned with divine symbols. On the first altar is a crescent mounted on stone, the second altar contains a sitting dog.
The sitting dog motif first occurs as a divine symbol in the Old Babylonian period and continues on into the Neo-Babylonian era. Inscriptions on kudurrus (boundary stones) identify it as the symbol of Gula, the goddess of healing. In the Neo-Babylonian period, the sitting dog was also seen as an amuletic protective symbol and was not necessarily associated with any particularly deity.
The recumbent crescent moon was a motif in Mesopotamian art from prehistoric times down to the Neo-Babylonian period. It is known from Old Babylonian inscriptions that the crescent was a symbol of the moon god Sîn(Nanna). The recumbent crescent symbol, like the sitting dog, was believed to have magic apotropaic powers.
Babylonian Gold Medallion, Late Old Babylonian Period, 17th-16th Century BC
Said to have been found at Dilbat, a modern town near Babylon, along with four cylinder seals and three granulated gold cylinder seal caps. The medallion’s rays emanating from a central boss representing Shamash, the sun god.
Black limestone Kudurru (boundary stone) of Kassite King Melishipak I (Meli–Šipak, 1186-1172 BC). Kassites were ancient people from the north-east of Babylonia known primarily for establishing the second Babylonian dynasty following the collapse of the Old Babylonian Period in 1595 BC. They ruled between the 16th and the 12th centuries BC.
The “Land grant to Ḫunnubat-Nanaya” kudurru records the gift of -uncultivated- land and control over three settlements by the king Meli-Šipak to his daughter.
The rounded top, shaped kudurru is covered on three sides by an inscription of Meli–Šipak. On the fourth side the scene shows the king with his right hand raised in a gesture of greeting. With his left hand he grasps the wrist of his daughter. The princess carries in her left hand a nine-stringed harp. Both face an enthroned goddess, Nanaya, a deity worshipped especially at Uruk. Above the figures the crescent moon represents the god Sin, the sun the god Shamash and the star the goddess Ishtar.
-Kassite period, taken to Susa as war booty in the 12th century BC-
Ceramic plaque with the face of the famous demon Humbaba from the Epic of Gilgamesh. He was the monster who guarded the Cedar Forest (modern-day Lebanon). The plaque dates back to the Old Babylonian Period in the early 2nd millennium BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY.
A terracotta plaque with high-relief image of Humbaba, facing with hands to the abdomen, legs spread.
Humbaba appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh as the guardian of cedar forest. He is described as a giant protected by seven layers of terrifying radiance and was eventually killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. He is depicted with a human body, lion’s claws and paws, a monstrous face, long hair and whiskers. In the Old Babylonian Period clay plaques depicting Humbaba were used for divination purposes and were hung on walls as protective amulets.
Hammurabi was the 6th king of the empire known as Babylon, he inherited the throne in 1792 BC. Shamshi-Adad was ruler in the North of Babylon at that time and Rim-Sin had just unified the south. Hammurabi had even owed allegiance to Shamshi-Adad in the beginning of his reign but soon he started a period now called “the Old Babylonian Period”, the beginning of Babylon’s dominance over southern Mesopotamia for the next 1500 years.
In the early years of his reign his name is mentioned in conflicts against all his powerful neighbors but there was never a significant outcome. Most of his attention was directed inwards, towards the development of his state, mainly digging irrigation canals, fortifying cities, expanding temples and heightening city walls. Only after this was achieved did he turn his attention fully to a wider scale, his military activities were short but devastating. In the years 1766 – 1761 BC he established full dominance over southern Mesopotamia and he quickly defeated small city states left in the area. Only the north of Mesopotamia stayed relatively free of his early political campaigns, after two campaigns his grasp on the area was strained at best, Hammurabi was however, beyond a doubt, the most powerful king of Mesopotamia. He proclaimed himself to be “the king who made the four quarters of the earth obedient.”
The core of Hammurabi’s considerable state was Babylon, this city thrived under his rule as he was meticulous as a ruler. Unfortunately all our information about Babylon comes from records in other cities because there is virtually no archeological evidence of the city. Many of the primary sources are letter writer by Hammurabi to agents who were loyal in these other cities.
Hammurabi’s ideology was simple but strong, he considered himself to be a shepherd and a farmer. This ideology is expressed in one of the most famous monuments from ancient Mesopotamia; “the Hammurabi law code”. The monument is a 2 meter high diorite stele almost completely covered with texts. Between the prologue and the epilogue there are some 300 statements, all formulated in the “If…, then…”pattern and described various criminal offenses and their punishments. The first written laws in the world. The philosophy behind these codes appear to be based on the ideas of ‘an eye for an eye’ but also the presumed innocence of a person. The accuser has to provide evidence of guilt before judgment is given.
An important section in this code:
“I am indeed the shepherd who brings peace, whose scepter is just.
My benevolent shade was spread over my city, I held the people of the lands of Sumer and Akkad safely on my lap.”
The function of this monument seems straightforward but there has been much debate and general consensus now is that this monument is not meant as a code of law but as a monument presenting Hammurabi as an exemplary king of justice. In his own words:
“May any wronged man who has a case come before my statue as king of justice, and may he have my inscribed stele read aloud to him. May he hear my precious words and may my stele clarify his case for him. May he examine has lawsuit and may he calm his (troubled) heart. May he say: “Hammurabi …. Provided just ways for the land”.”
The stele not only provided justice but it also provides us insights into Babylonian society at that time. The stele shows a stratified society in which three major groups occur. The first is the group of awilum, or free men, then the mushkenum, or the dependents, and lastly the wardum, the slaves. Punishments for the same crimes varied according to the criminals and victims status. Injuries to a free man were punishes harder then injuries to a slave. However, we have to keep in mind that these punishments and terms were not absolute.
On the stele at the top we see Hammurabi receiving these law from a god (perhaps Marduk) and in the text it is stated that Hammurabi was chosen to deliver these laws to man. It was found in Persia in 1901 and is now on display at the museum in Paris.
By the end of his reign Hammurabi had singlehandedly altered the political layout of Mesopotamia. Babylon was now the single most greatest power, surrounded by weaker remnants of once powerful city states, such as Elam, Eshnuma and Assur. However, this unification was short-lived, only ten years after Hammurabi’s son, Samsuiluna, had ascended the throne did he face a great rebellion in the south of Babylon.
Although Samsuiluna won the fight, he lost full control of the south of Babylon and this was never restored. In Samsuiluna’s 30th year on the throne many cities conquered by his father were no longer in his control. Strangely enough these cities were not just lost politically, according to archeological evidence these cities were completely abandoned. This was perhaps a result of the ferocious response of Samsuiluna to the rebellion and these areas were too damaged and destroyed to sustain any further occupation.
However, in the northern areas Hammurabi’s descendents ruled for another 100 years.