Early Mesopotamian Worshipper

2500-2350 BC

Height 38 cm



Mesopotamia, the land of the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates, is considered to be the cradle of civilization. This cultural area is located in what is now Eastern Syria and Iraq. It was in Southern Mesopotamia that urban life developed and writing was invented. The first language to employ a syllabic script was Sumerian.

On the right shoulder of this small figure of a worshipper—the oldest sculpture in the Liebieghaus’s collection—a dual inscription has survived. The original inscription, which was still in Sumerian, has been sanded off and replaced by an Akkadian, hence Old Semitic inscription: “The priest Bazi ... dedicated this to the god Lugal-asal”. The figure clearly represents a worshipper of a deity. Many such statuettes of worshippers have been discovered in Mesopotamia’s early shrines. They were all placed on low benches against the interior walls of temples in the period between 2500 and 2350 BC as perpetual votaries of the cult idol.

The figure’s hands are folded before its naked breast. It stands erect, fully turned toward the object of its reverence, and its shaven head is slightly raised. Colourful inlays were originally inserted into the recesses of its eyes and eyebrows. The expression of the wide-open eyes with their fixed gaze and oversize pupils lends these Mesopotamian figures their metaphysical aura. Traces of polychromy on other figures of worshippers suggest that figures like these were almost certainly completely coloured. The long wraparound skirt is decorated with rows of tufts.