Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cuneiform cylinder with inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II, describing the rebuilding of Ebabbar, the temple of the sun-god Shamash at Sippar

ca. 604–562 B.C.
Mesopotamia, Sippar (?) (modern Tell Abu Habba)
9 in. (22.86 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1884
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 402
The invention of writing in approximately 3300 B.C. was one of many developments in administrative technology--including the use of geometric tokens for counting and cylinder seals to guarantee transactions--that accompanied the growth of the first cities and states in southern Mesopotamia. Proto-cuneiform is the name given to the earliest form of writing--pictograms that were drawn on clay tablets. Gradually, the pictograms became abstracted into cuneiform (Latin, "wedge-shaped") signs that were impressed rather than drawn. At its greatest extent, cuneiform writing was used from the Mediterranean coast of Syria to western Iran and from Hittite Anatolia to southern Mesopotamia. It was adapted to write at least fifteen different languages. The last dated cuneiform text has a date corresponding to A.D. 75, although the script probably continued in use over the next two centuries.

This hollow clay cylinder is inscribed with cuneiform and records the achievements of Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of Babylon. The text describes the rebuilding of Ebabbar, the temple of the sun-god Shamash at Sippar and probably served as a foundation deposit.
1880s, said to be found at Sippar by Bernard Maimon, Baghdad; acquired by the Museum in 1884, purchased from Bernard Maimon.
O'Connor, J.F.X. 1885. "The Cylinder of Nebukadnezzar at New York", Hebraica I (4), pp. 201-208.

Spar, Ira, and Michael Jursa. 2014. Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Volume IV: The Ebabbar Temple Archive and Other Texts from the Fourth to the First Millennium B.C. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Eisenbrauns, no. 172, pp. 292-296, pls. 136-137.
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