H. 22.4 x W. 14.7 x D. 9.5 cm (8 7/8 x 5 3/4 x 3 3/4 in.)
Funds from various donors, 1958
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 403
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.
1930s, collection of M. Godin, Paris; acquired by the Museum in 1958, purchased from Elias S. David, New York.
“Expedition into the Past: Al-Hiba,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 16, 1972–January 21, 1973.
“The Art of Sumer and Akkad,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 3–May 27, 1973.
"Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 8–August 17, 2003.
“Before the Flood.” Fundación ‘La Caixa’, Barcelona, Madrid, November 29, 2012–June 30, 2013.
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