Sumerian City Of Girsu: Political, Religious Center With Large Archive Of Thousands Of Cuneiform Tablets

Last Updated on

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Modern Tello (Telloh) was an ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, located between the Tigris and Euphrates and about 20-25 kilometers north-northwest of Lagash in southern Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq).

Today, the site is marked by several mounds, about 0.9 miles in diameter.

Cuneiform Tablet from Girsu (modern: Tello), dated to 2370 BC. Image credit: Max Planck Gesellschaft

Cuneiform Tablet from Girsu (modern: Tello), dated to 2370 BC. Image credit: Max Planck Gesellschaft

Once, Girsu was a part of the Lagash city state. It was an important Sumerian city with many temples devoted to Ningirsu, chief god of Lagash; it  served as the capital during the reign of Gudea in the 22th century BC

The city, which name is written in Sumerian as ‘Shirpurla’, flourished during the Early Dynastic period (2500-2300 BC) but it was even later continuously inhabited until the 2nd century BC. When the capital was moved, the city remained an important religious center.

It was the first place in Mesopotamia, to offer evidence of Sumerian civilization, in form of a large archive of thousands of cuneiform tablets with records of economic, administrative and commercial matters of the city.

Votive cone with cuneiform inscription of Gudea: dedicated when Gudea built the Eninnu temple for the god Ningirsu, dated to ca. 2090 BC. Image credit: The Met

Votive cone with cuneiform inscription of Gudea: dedicated when Gudea built the Eninnu temple for the god Ningirsu, dated to ca. 2090 BC. Image credit: The Met

Despite successful excavations in the 1870s, carried out by French archaeologist, Ernest de Sarzac, who delivered physical evidence for the existence of a pre-Babylonian civilization, the ruins of Girsu were systematically looted.

It is estimated that only about 4,000 tablets were excavated by the French team but at least 35,000-40,000 (!) of them ended up on diverse markets and later in private collections.

See also:

Millennia-Old Sumerian Tripod Vase Dedicated To God Ningirsu, The Son OF Enlil

Sumerian Stele Of The Vultures: Oldest Known Historical Records Carved On Limestone

Statue Of Gudea: The King-Priest Of Sumerian City Of Lagash In Southeast Mesopotamia

The findings revealed by M. de Sarzec included a portrait statue of Gudea, and several other his statues and his dynasty, carved in very hard diorite, the remains of a ziggurat, the ruins of the temples of Ningirsu E-ninnu, built by Gudea, and that of the goddess Bau (also known as Gula), a Babylonian goddess of healing, the consort of Ninurta and in Akkadian mythology.

Bull statuette (human-headed) dated to about 2120 BC from ancient city of Girsu. Sumer. Height 11.8 cm (4.5 inches), width 8cm (3 inches, Depth 7.7 cm (3 iches). Image credit: Louvre, Paris

Bull statuette (human-headed) dated to about 2120 BC from ancient city of Girsu. Sumer. Height 11.8 cm (4.5 inches), width 8cm (3 inches, Depth 7.7 cm (3 iches). Image credit: Louvre, Paris

A large silver vase (ca.2400 BC ) dedicated to god Ningirsu by Entemena, king of Lagash, and the famous “stele of the Vultures” celebrating a victory by Eannatum, we described earlier in one of our articles, are among the finest discoveries.

Another beautiful artifact excavated at Girsu and dated to about 2120 BC, is a bull statuette with human head, 11.8 cm (4.5 inches) high, 8cm (3 inches wide.

The figurine is now stored at Louvre, Paris, France.

Most we have learned about the ancient city of Girsu comes from deciphered clay tablets. It is not much because as we mentioned earlier, many thousands of tablets were stolen from the site and will never found.

Girsu ruins Sumerian city

In “A History of Sumer and Akkad”, King L.W. describes the cuneiform tablets as they were found by M. de Sarzec:

“… baked clay tablets from Tello, which date from this period are extensive lists of cattle, sheep, and asses, owned by the temples, and detailed tablets of accounts concerning the administration of the rich temple lands.

It is interesting to note that these documents, which from the nature of their clay and the beauty of their writing are among the finest specimens yet recovered in Babylonia, were found by M. de Sarzec in the original archive-chambers in which they had been stored by the Sumerian priests.

Though they had apparently been disturbed at some later period, the majority were still arranged in layers, placed one upon tlie other, upon benches of earth which ran along both sides of narrow subterranean galleries…”

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com

Expand for references

References:

The Historians' History of the World in Twenty-Five Volumes

MET

Trivium Art History

G. Algaze, Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization