Diameter: 23.500 cm
Depth: 6.500 cm
Room 56: Mesopotamia
Circular brick with an inscription of Gudea
Kingdom of Lagash, about 2100-2000 BC
Probably from Tello (ancient Girsu), southern Iraq
This circular brick has a cuneiform inscription of Gudea, the ruler of the city-state of Lagash (dates debated, but about 2100-2000 BC). He ruled at a time when the cities of southern Mesopotamia, previously united under the empire of Agade (Akkad), were reasserting their independence. Rulers of the rival city-states competed for prominence. Gudea is one of the best known, since he was a prolific builder and some of the longest and earliest Sumerian literary texts were written during his reign.
The contents of the text is typical of building inscriptions. It starts with the name of Ningirsu, the patron god of Lagash. It goes on to record that Gudea, who is described as the ensi or 'governor' of Lagash, had built the god a temple complete with a portico made of cedar. Very often these building inscriptions were made using a stamp which was impressed into the bricks. Kings were keen to demonstrate their piety through building temples, and they often celebrate the importation from distant lands of rare materials for the construction and furnishing. The cedar Gudea refers to in this inscription may have originated in Lebanon.
Despite his wealth, however, Gudea's rule was limited to the area of his own city which was soon absorbed into the new empire of Ur (called the Third Dynasty of Ur).
British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)