Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Inscribed brick

ca. 2112–2095 B.C.
Mesopotamia, Nippur
Ceramic, glaze
Brick: 30.9 x 31.4 x 7.5 cm (12 1/8 x 12 3/8 x 3 in.)
Inscription: 11 x 9.5 cm (4 3/8 x 3 3/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1959
Accession Number:
Not on view
This ceramic brick was found during excavations at Nippur, the religious capital of Mesopotamia in the third and early second millennia B.C. Nippur was home to Enlil, the chief god of the pantheon. Rulers from other Mesopotamian cities sought to promote their kingship and garner this god’s favor by maintaining, repairing, and at times rebuilding his temple, the Ekur. The repair of a temple created an opportunity for a ruler to bury his own inscription within the walls, leaving a record for future generations.

The brick is stamped with an inscription written in the Sumerian language. It names the Ur III period ruler Ur-Nammu (ca. 2112-2095 B.C.). Royal power fragmented after the collapse of the Akkadian empire (ca. 2350-2150 B.C.). Ur-Nammu is credited for the reunification of Mesopotamia, an accomplishment evoked by the title "King of Sumer and Akkad", new to this king. Today, Ur-Nammu is known for his many building works, particularly at Ur, the new royal capital.

the king of Ur,
the king of Sumer and Akkad,
(is) the one who built the temple of Enlil

(translation adapted from Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Vol. I, No. 116)
1957-58, excavated on behalf of the Joint Expedition to Nippur (Baghdad School of the American Schools of Oriental Research and The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago); acquired by the Museum in 1958, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.

"Gudea of Lagash," Detroit Institute of Arts, December 5, 1982–July 31, 1983.

Spar, Ira. 1988. Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Volume I: Tablets, Cones, and Bricks of the Third and Second Millennia B.C. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 116, p. 159, pl. 120.
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