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Permanent Collection: Ancient Near Eastern Art:
Cuneifrom Cylinder of Nabopolassar Recording Repair of the City Wall of Babylon

Cuneifrom Cylinder of Nabopolassar Recording Repair of the City Wall of Babylon

Mesopotamia, Babylon. Neo-Babylonian Period, Reign of Nabopolassar, 625 - 605 B.C. Clay, 3 7/8 x 2 1/16 in. (9.8 x 5.2 cm). 1921.131

Cuneiform ("wedge-shaped") writing is Mesopotamia's most important contribution to the rest of the ancient Near East. Its invention revolutionized the way business and trade were conducted and offered the first opportunity for mankind to record written history. Cuneiform and its principal writing medium, the clay tablet, remained in use for over 3,000 years. Scribes adapted cuneiform script for writing many Near Eastern languages and used it to record business transactions, legal codes, and literary, commemorative, and dedicatory texts.

This barrel-shaped cylinder of clay is inscribed with a commemorative text that records the repair of the city wall of Babylon by Nabopolassar. In the text, Nabopolassar invokes his own name as king of Babylon, describes the weakening and settling of the Great Wall of Babylon on its original base, and his repair and rebuilding of the foundation wall which "like a mountain its summit I verily raised... Oh, Wall! Remind Marduk, my lord [patron god of Babylon] of the favor." Kings and officials commonly deposited inscribed tablets of this shape into recesses built below or within new or repaired constructions in Mesopotamia. Their deposit sanctified and protected the construction as well as allowing the king or official to record his name and deeds for the gods and posterity.

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