Interesting Facade of Inanna’s Temple

I had earlier visited the National Museum of Iraq last year. But that day the Sumerian and Babylonian sections were closed for maintenance. I again visited the museum yesterday. This time, the entire museum was open to visitors. The entry fee for foreigners is IQD 25,000 ($21.00), which is a bit high!

There was a section of the facade of the temple of Inanna at Uruk. A wall of baked bricks with buttresses and recesses. This wall was a section of the front facade the temple of the goddess Inanna in Warka, which was built by Karaindash, the Kassite king (1445-1427 BCE) and replaced the wall of mosaic which decorated the facade of the temple Warka since the Jamdat Nasir period. During excavations in the precinct of the temple of Inanna at Uruk or Warka, archaeologists discovered the remains of an isolated temple dedicated to the Sumerian goddess Inanna (Ishtar). From the evidence of a brick inscription, its construction can be dated to the reign of the Kassite ruler Kara-indash.

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Home to Gilgamesh, Uruk was the major force of urbanization and state formation during the 4th millennium BCE. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the king is said to have built the city’s monumental walls. There may be some truth to the legend, these walls, as well as other city structures, were actually unearthed by archaeologists. Uruk was one of the most important cities in southern Mesopotamia. This city lies about 241 km to the south of Baghdad, the present capital of Iraq. In ancient times, Uruk was situated on the eastern banks of a channel of the Euphrates River. Over the millennia, however, the channel dried up, and its course shifted away from the city by about 19 km.

The ancient city of Uruk is also known in Arabic as Tell al-Warka. The site of Uruk is believed to have been settled as early as the Ubaid period (circa the 7th to the 4th millennium BCE). Although Uruk’s history may be traced archaeologically to the 6th millennium BCE, and perhaps even further back, the city’s rise to prominence occurred only around 3800 BCE. As Uruk became the main force of urbanization and state formation, the period that lasted roughly from 3800 to 3200 BCE became known as the Uruk period.

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star.

This piece of wall decoration (mosaic) was part of one of the walls of the temple at Warka (Uruk) city. Stone cones are inlaid on a gypsum background. Uruk period, 3500-2800 BCE, Mesopotamia, Iraq.

The facade of the wall of the main entrance to the temple of Inanna at Warka, decorated with cones of pottery and a part of another wall decorated with coloured mosaics, dated to Jamdat Nasir period (3000-2900 BCE). A part of this wall was transferred to Germany by the German expedition which worked on Warka before the first World War and is kept at Pergamonmuseum, Berlin.

The outer façade of the rectangular building, measuring 22.5 by 17.5 m, which stood until the Seleucid period (4th-3rd centuries BCE), was articulated with niches. Alternating male and female deities hold in their hands, small vessels from which water pours out in snaking lines — two streams of water representing the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. While the bearded male gods wear garments with a scale motif (symbolizing mountains), the clothes of the female deities are decorated with vertical wavy lines (symbolizing water). This image of the water-giving (and thus life-giving) gods can be explained in some detail: the mountain gods and water goddesses personify as the source of life the water supplies secured in Southern Mesopotamia. In this symbolic representation water constantly pours out and comes together to form streams that descend from the mountains (represented by the great scale-like symbols between the niches) which flow to the plains and so secure human existence.

The iconography seems to refer to the origins of the Kassites (circa 1600 — circa 1155 BCE), the foreigners from the eastern mountains who ruled Babylon for centuries.

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