Height: 34.920 cm
Width: 9.520 cm
Room 56: Mesopotamia
First Dynasty of Isin, about 1900-1700 BC
Probably from southern Iraq
The figure raises his right hand in a gesture of worship which is typical of figures of this period. He wears a crescent around his neck that is probably the symbol of the god Sin, one of the most important deities in Mesopotamia. The very faint inscription on the figure's back may name him as Etel-pi-Shamsh, an official at the city of Isin in southern Mesopotamia, perhaps the son of Idin-Dagan, King of Isin (reigned 1974-1954 BC).
The dynasty of kings based at the city of Isin had attempted to hold together the territory of the earlier empire of Ur (known as the Third Dynasty of Ur) which had dominated southern Mesopotamia. The new dynasty tried to emulate the past period of glory, by adopting royal titles - such as 'king of the four quarters of the world'. This was a title used by the Ur III Kings, who claimed to rule everything. It was adopted by the Isin rulers to connect them with the earlier line of kings. They also used royal hymns and ceremonies, including the Sacred Marriage ritual, that were written in Sumerian. Sumerian was by that time a dead language but still used to indicate antiquity, like Latin is in Western Europe today. Lists of earlier kings were also composed to show that the rulers of Isin were following tradition and were favoured by the gods. The Isin rulers finally lost power with the rise of a rival dynasty at Larsa, about 100 kilometres to the south.
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
British Museum, A guide to the Babylonian and, 3rd ed. (London, British Museum, 1922)