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Creator Nationality: Asian; Middle Eastern; Mesopotamian
Creator Active Place: Southern Mesopotamia
Creator Name-CRT: Southern Mesopotamia
Title: Stele of Ushumgal
Creation Start Date: -290
Creation End Date: -260
Creation Date: 2900-2600 B.C.
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Monuments
Materials and Techniques: Alabaster (gypsum)
Dimensions: H. 8.8 in. (22.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 58.29
Credit Line: Funds from various donors, 1958
Among the earliest written documents from Mesopotamia are records of land sales or grants, often carved in stone with associated images, perhaps for public display. The Sumerian inscription on this stele records a transaction involving three fields, three houses, and some livestock. Ushumgal, a priest of the god Shara, and his daughter are the central figures of the transaction, but because of the archaic script, it is not clear whether Ushumgal is buying, selling, or granting these properties. The smaller figures along the sides very likely represent witnesses to the transaction.
In addition to their importance to understanding the development of writing, these early land documents provide evidence that land could be privately owned in early Mesopotamia, although a significant proportion was still owned by the gods and managed by their temples. While this development is not surprising from a modern point of view, in antiquity it represented a momentous conceptual and cultural shift.
AMICA ID: MMA_.58.29
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights:
Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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