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Foundation Figure of King Ur-Nammu image

Foundation Figure of King Ur-Namma
Mesopotamia, Third Dynasty of Ur
(ca. 2112–2004 B.C.)
Inscribed: Ur-Namma, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad, the one who built the temple of Enlil. Height: 335 mm
MLC no. 2628

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The first king of the Third Dynasty of Ur, Ur-Namma was responsible for the restoration of old temples and oversaw the extensive construction of new temples and stepped temple towers known as ziggurats. The figure depicts the king with his head and face shaved, his torso nude, and wearing a long skirt. On his head he carries a basket containing the mud to make the temple's bricks. The first one was molded by the king himself, who is represented in the occupation considered the lowliest in Mesopotamia—"carrying the basket"—for in the presence of the gods the king was a humble servant. The skirt is inscribed with his titles and achievements, Ur-Namma, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad, the one who built the temple of Enlil. He is shown in an act of deep piety, and the sculpture gives us a rare glimpse of royal portraiture by first-rate metropolitan craftsmen of the twenty-first century B.C.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.