Eshnunna Statuettes, Eshnunna, Iraq, 2700 BCE

These statues found buried beneath the floor of a temple at Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar) reveal a lot about the religious beliefs of Sumerians.

At the temple, several statues were discovered. They ranged in size (from under 1 foot to 30 inches). I’ve selected an image of the two largest ones since those are the most recognizable ones. All of them are carved in soft gypsum and represent mortals. These statues were created to symbolize the eternal devotion of the Sumerians. The statues were meant be in eternal prayer and devotion, filling in for the Sumerians when they had to leave the temple for other responsibilities.

What I find to be the most interesting is that the artist made a serious effort to differentiate between male and female artists. According to an observation made by Fred S. Kleiner (author of Gardner’s Art Through the Ages). Most men have beards and shoulder-length hair and they wear belts and fringed skirts. Most women wear long robes with the right shoulder bare. I think it’s funny how these “stereotypes” for men and women are so different from the ones prevalent today!

Another interesting aspect of these sculptures is that they have symbolism. Their hands are clasped in front of their chest, a symbol of prayer. They look upward in the direction of their god and their large eyes symbolize “the eternal wakefulness” of the loyal follower, since the purpose of these figures was to offer constant prayer and attention to the gods on behalf of the donor.

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