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Standing Male Worshipper (Mesopotamia 2700 BCE) Size: 26 x 10.8 cm

Brief Identification[]

This statue depicts a male worshipper from Mesopotamia around 2700 BCE. The people and families that inhabited Mesopotamia throughout the Early Dynastic period created male worshippers. These statues were created to be placed in the temples to serve as constant worshippers of the gods. It was believed that a statue took on the essence of the owner at all times. Therefore, when an individual or family created a statue and placed it in the temples, they were permanently placing themselves in the presence of the gods so that the people could constantly worship the gods. 

Technical Evaluation[]

Most of the statues that are still around today have been excavated by various museums. One example of a museum that helped excavate Early Dynastic period statues is the Metropolitan Museum, which sponsored excavations during the years of 1957-1958 and 1960-1961. During this time, hundreds of Early Dynastic Mesopotamian statues were discovered. Also, as a result of the museum sponsoring the excavation process, it was awarded some of the statues.

The statue depicts a man with long facial hair, wide eyes and his hands clasped in front of him. Statues of male worshippers were made from gypsum, shell, and limestone. Metal was also a necessity in making statues. Mesopotamians used metal to carve the stone and to add details such as beards and eyes to the statue. The fact that Mesopotamians used metal shows that the civilization's economic standing was improving. The reason this is true is because there are no ores in Mesopotamia. Therefore, metal had to be imported through trade. More specifically, Mesopotamian’s would trade textiles, oils, and other commodities with neighboring cities. Fortunately for Mesopotamia, the geographical landscape, which consisted of open boundaries, made it easy to maintain communication and trade with neighboring regions. The introduction and use of trade routes served as stepping-stones towards the development of some of the world’s first cities. 

Local Historical Content []

Mesopotamian male worshipper statues were first introduced around the year 2700 BCE, in the main cities of Mesopotamia at the time: Eridu [see Eridu, 1], Nippur [see Nippur, 1], and Uruk (Akkad) [see Akkad, 1]. During this period, Mesopotamia's economic situation was blossoming. Not only did the implementation of irrigation aid in Mesopotamia's economic climb, but trade and advanced channels of communication and travel also brought many people and external resources to Mesopotamia. This constant traffic paired with the introduction of written text were two of the main reasons that Mesopotamia developed the first cities, which served as focal points for economic activity as well as centers for religious practices. 

With the creation of the first city-states came a more distinct hierarchy of power. Although the Sumerians controlled Urak (the biggest city-state at the time) around 2700 BCE, there is not much known about an individual ruler. Instead, there is simply a legend that speaks of an alleged, but later proved fictional, ruler: Gilgamesh . The fact that there has never been confirmed an individual ruler is perhaps why the individuals that made the statues did not have a specific position in society during the Early Dynastic period. Therefore, the statues were made by individuals that either made them to represent themselves or their family. It was not until after the Akkadian’s [see Mesopotamian art and architecture, 5] took over Mesopotamia that the statues were made by specific groups of people who made the statues for elite members of society. However, although the production of the statues changed over time, the meaning and purpose of the statue remained the same: to serve as a way for the people to pay tribute to the gods. This type of worshipping is what Mesopotamian's believed kept the gods happy and, ultimately, protected their society. 

World-Historical Significance[]

In the greater scheme of world history, the male worshipper statues represent the introduction of many different functions of society that still take place today. The first is the use of stone to carve important figures that serve as tributes. Not only are these figures used in religious contexts but they are also used to represent persons of elite positions and importance. This shows advancement in skills and technology, as well as the introduction of a way for people to show respect to those in higher positions of power. Not only are there still statues of gods and other people of high power being made today, but the technological advancement of the development of such statues has also increased. Another importance is the fact that the statues were created to represent individuals’ presence instead of depicting gods. This is important because most other societies only made sculptures of people in high positions of power (kings and gods), not to represent individuals in the society. 

The statues of male worshippers are also linked with similar practices in other cultures. For example, although other cultures may not have built specific figures to encompass their own essence to pay tribute and keep the gods happy, many other religious cultures still used personal belongings as a form of paying tribute to the gods. These include rituals like sacrificing livestock and donating portions of farming products to the places where the gods were said to exist. In bgoth cases, people brought something personal and/or of value to a religious location, a practice that still exists today.  

Suggested Bibliography[]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Early Dynastic Sculpture," http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/edys/hd_edys.htm

The British Museum, "Mesopotamia," http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/visit_mesopotamia_ks2.pdf

W.J. Rayment, "Mesopotamia: The Rise of the First Civilization" http://www.indepthinfo.com/history-ancient/mesopotamia.htm

Marchesi, Gianni, and Nicoló Marchetti, Royal Statuary of Early Dynastic Mesopotamia. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2011

Britannica Online, "Mesopotamian art and architecture," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/376897/Mesopotamian-art-and-architecture/37859/Sculpture?anchor=ref419955

Britannica Online, "Gilgamesh," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/233644/Gilgamesh

The British Museum, "Mesopotamia: Early Dynastic Period," http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/article_index/m/mesopotamia_early_dynastic_pe.aspx

Britannica Online, "History of Mesopotamis," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/376828/history-of-Mesopotamia/55473/Sumer-and-Akkad-from-2350-to-2000-bce

Britannica Online, "Nippur," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/415879/Nippur

Britannica Online, "Eridu," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/191402/Eridu

Britannica Online, "Akkad," http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/11671/Akkad