A remarkable collection of cuneiform inscriptions, reliefs, pieces of small
statuary and applied art represent the culture of the Sumerians, founders of
a civilization between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates; their successors, the
Akkadians and Babylonians, who created the powerful Assyrian Empire;
and the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean.
The earliest items come from the late 4th to early 3rd millenium BC. A group
of painted pottery found in a necropolis at the settlement of Susa
demonstrates the skill of craftsmen from Elam, home of the earliest
civilization on the territory of Iran. A stone tablet with a pictographic
inscription (late 4th to early 3rd millenium BC) from the Sumerian town of
Uruk is regarded as one of the most ancient written documents, while
important material on the history of the ancient Sumerian and Akkadian
civilizations is provided by a number of pieces such as the cuneiform
archive of a temple of the Sumerian goddess Bau at Lagash (28th-23rd
centuries BC); documents associated with the 3rd dynasty of Gudea (c.
11th century BC); and economic documents for the town of Ur during the
3rd dynasty (11th-10th centuries BC).
Babylonian domination of the area between the Tigris and the Euphrates is
also illustrated by cuneiform materials: an informative selection of
economic documents, promissory notes and materials associated with
A vast collection of carved stones of the 4th to 2nd millenium BC traces
the development of the fine arts in Asia Minor; zoomorphic bronzes from
Luristan (2nd millenium BC) reveal the features peculiar to contemporary
Iranian fine art; small groups of items represent the culture of New
Babylon, Iran under the Achaemenids, Phoenicia and the Hittite state in
Asia Minor. There are Assyrian reliefs from the residences of the rulers
Ashurnasirpal II (9th century BC), Sargon II, Tiglath-Pileser III, Sinakherib
(late 8th-7th centuries BC) - typical examples of Assyrian imperial art,
intended to glorify the power and might of the cruel Assyrian rulers and to
immortalize their victories over enemies.
Items from Palmyra – a large trading center which existed in the Syrian
desert before 273 - includes a group of portrait burial reliefs in the unique
Palmyran style, which combines features of Oriental and Graeco-Roman
cultures. The most important information about the city's life is provided
by the famous ‘Palmyrian Tariff', a marble slab with a text in Aramaic and
Greek expounding a law issued on April 18th, 137 AD, concerning the
levying of duty on goods imported into Palmyra.
If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other collections at the State Hermitage Museum.
Document Consisting of Ideograms
Late 4th-early 3rd millenium BC