Excavated at Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna), central Mesopotamia
Alabaster (gypsum), shell, black limestone
H. 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)
Fletcher Fund, by exchange, 1940 (40.156)
In Mesopotamia, some gods were thought to be physically present in the materials and experiences of daily life, while others were ethereal and diffuse. Enlil, considered the most powerful Mesopotamian god during most of the third millennium B.C., was a "raging storm" or "wild bull," while the goddess Inanna reappeared in different guises as the morning and evening star. Deities were believed to inhabit their cult statues after the latter had been animated by the proper rituals, and fragments of worn statues were preserved within the walls of the temple.
This standing figure, with clasped hands and a wide-eyed gaze, is a worshipper. It was placed in the "Square Temple" at Tell Asmar, perhaps dedicated to the god Abu, in order to pray perpetually on behalf of the person it represented, who was considered to be physically present in the statue. Similar statues were often inscribed with the names of rulers and their families.