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Discovery of Statues in Lagash

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Discovery of Statues in Lagash

Lagash was one of the oldest cities in Sumer and

Babylonia. Today it is represented by a long line of

ruin mounds, which are rather low, now known as Tello

al-Hiba in Iraq. Located northwest of the junction of

the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and east of the

ancient city of Uruk, it is positioned on the dry bed

of an ancient canal, approximately 10 miles north of

the modern town of Shatra.#

The ruins of Lagash were discovered in 1877 by Ernest

de Sarzec, a Frenchman, who was allowed by the

Montefich chief, Nasir Pasha, to excavate the site at

his pleasure in the territories under the governing of

Nasir Pasha. Ernest de Sarzec continued excavations at

this site with various interludes, at first on his own

account and later as a representative of the French

government, until his death in 1901. The smaller

mounds had apparently been comprised mostly of storage

houses, in which vessels, weapons, sculptures, and

other objects that were used by the administration of

palace and temple. However, the primary excavations

were made in two larger mounds, which later were found

to be the site of the temple known as E-Ninnu, a

shrine to the patron god of Lagash, Nin-girsu.

The temple had long been destroyed and a

fortification was built on what remained of the

temple, during the Seleucid period. It was underneath

this fortification that numerous statues of Gudea were

discovered, which make up the heart of the Babylonian

collection at the Louvre Museum#. Overall the statues

had been damaged, some decapitated and others broken

in various ways, having been put into the foundation

of the new fortification. Also in this section came a

mixture of fragments of basic artifacts including

various objects made from bronze and stone, of high

artistic excellence. Some of these objects have been

dated to the earliest Sumerian period enabling

historians to trace Babylonian art and it’s history to

a date some hundreds years prior. Excavations in the

other mound resulted in the uncovering of the remains

of various buildings. In these outlying buildings de

Sarzec discovered about thirty thousand inscribed

clay tablets, the record archives of the temple. The

tablets contained the business records, the nature of

its property, the methods used to cultivate the land,

methods on herding its animals, and its commercial and

industrial dealings. The ancient temple was a great

industrial, commercial, agricultural and stock-raising

institution of the time.

From the objects and inscriptions uncovered at Tello

it seems that Lagash, the city ruled by Gudea, was one

of great importance during the Sumerian period. During

this time independent kings (Ur-Nina and his

successors) ruled Sumer, but with the Semitic conquest

its rulers became dependant, forced to listen to

Sargon of Akkad and his successors. However, the city

remained Sumerian and continued to be of great

importance because the city was the center of commerce

and art.

Trade during this period developed far-reaching

commercial communication with distant territories.

Gudea imported cedar from mountainous regions of

Syria, gold and copper from areas in Arabia and Sinai,

and diorite from eastern Arabia. These new imports

helped make this era one prominent for artistic

development and it was in this era that art reached

its peak stages. A lion-headed eagle with outspread

wings grasping two more lions in its talons, a great

vase with what is considered the coat of arms of

Lagash, and of course statues of Gudea made from

diorite are some of the artifacts recovered from this

period. However, after the reign of Gudea, Lagash

loses its importance to the region as a center for art

and economic trade, and is lost for centuries.#

Statues of Gudea

Most timetables agree that Gudea ruled Lagash

sometime between the period of 2150-2100 B.C.,

bringing peace and prosperity to his people during

that time, and inaugurating a Sumerian renaissance,

marked by literary blossoming, and by a humanistic




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