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Gudea, King of Lagash (around 2130 BC)

Gudea ruled the city state of Lagash in the period before the Third Dynasty of Ur. Lagash was one of many Sumerian states that reasserted their independence following the decline of the empire of Agade, which had dominated much of Mesopotamia. Gudea is best known for his building works in one of the most important of the kingdom's cities, Girsu (modern Tello). Many objects have been recovered from the site inscribed in Sumerian cuneiform, recording how the ruler rebuilt at least fifteen temples. The most impressive of these was the Temple of Ningirsu, the national god.

Gudea's inscriptions represent some of the longest Sumerian compositions surviving from Mesopotamia. They provide detailed information about the rituals involved in the foundation of sanctuaries. He received the instruction to build the temple from Ningirsu himself, who appeared to Gudea in a dream. Timber and exotic stones to decorate the temples were brought from the distant lands of Magan and Meluhha (possibly to be identified as Oman and the Indus Valley). Few remains of these buildings have been recovered, although fine stone (diorite) statues of Gudea survive, many as the result of illicit digging. The best examples are now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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