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Lagash (modern Tell al-Hiba, Iraqmarker) is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigrismarker rivers and east of Urukmarker, Lagash was one of the oldest cities of Sumer and later Babylonia. Nearby Ngirsumarker (modern Telloh) was the religious center of the Lagash state.

Lagash's temple was E-Ninnu, dedicated to the god Ningirsu.


Lagash is represented by a rather low, long line of ruin mounds, now known as Tell al-Hiba in Iraqmarker. It is positioned on the dry bed of an ancient canal, some 5 km east of the Shatt-el-Haj , and about 22 km east of the modern town of Ash Shatrahmarker in the Dhi Qar Governoratemarker. Ngirsu (Telloh) lies about 25 km northwest of Al-Hiba.

The E-Ninnu temple had been razed and a fortress built upon its ruins, in the Greek or Seleucid period, some of the bricks found bearing the inscription in Aramaic and Greek of a certain Hadad-nadin-akhe, king of a small Babylonian kingdom. It was beneath this fortress that numerous statues of Gudea were found, constituting one of the prizes of the Near Eastern Antiquities collection at the Louvremarker. These had been decapitated and otherwise mutilated, and thrown into the foundations of the new fortress. From this stratum also came various fragments of bas reliefs of high artistic excellence. The excavations in the other larger mound resulted in the discovery of the remains of buildings containing objects of all sorts in bronze and stone, dating from the earliest Sumerian period onward, and enabling the art history of the ancient Near East to be traced to a date some hundreds of years before the time of Gudea.

Apparently this mound had been occupied largely by store houses, where were stored not only grain, figs, etc., but also vessels, weapons, sculptures and every possible object connected with the use and administration of palace and temple. In a small outlying mound, de Sarzec discovered the archives of the temple — about 30,000 inscribed clay tablets containing the business records, and revealing in extraordinary detail the administration of an ancient Near Eastern temple, the character of its property, the method of farming its lands, herding its flocks, and its commercial and industrial dealings and enterprises - an ancient Near Eastern temple was a great industrial, commercial, agricultural and stock-raising establishment. Unfortunately, before these archives could be removed, the galleries containing them were rifled by looters, and large numbers of the tablets were sold to antiquity dealers, by whom they have been scattered all over Europe and America.

Political History

From inscriptions found at Tellohmarker, it appears that Lagash was an important Sumerian city in the late 3rd millennium BC. It was at that time ruled by independent kings, Ur-Nanshe (24th century BC) and his successors, who were engaged in contests with the Elamitesmarker on the east and the kings of "Kiengir" and Kishmarker on the north.

Some of the earlier works from before the Akkadian conquest are also extremely interesting, in particular Eannatum's Stele of the Vultures and a Entemena's great silver vase ornamented with Ningirsu's sacred animal Anzu: a lion-headed eagle with wings outspread, grasping a lion in each talon.

With the Akkadianmarker conquest, Lagash lost its independence, its ruler or ensi becoming vassal of Sargon of Akkad and his successors; but it remained Sumerian, continuing to be a city of much importance and above all, a centre of artistic development. Indeed, it was in this period and under the immediately succeeding supremacy of the kings of Urmarker, Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, that it reached its highest artistic development. {fact}

After the collapse of Sargon's state, Lagash again throve under its independent kings (ensis) Ur-Bau and Gudea, and had extensive commercial communications with distant realms. According to his own records, Gudea brought cedars from the Amanusmarker and Lebanonmarker mountains in Syriamarker, diorite from eastern Arabia, copper and gold from central and southern Arabia, while his armies were engaged in battles with Elammarker on the east. His was especially the era of artistic development. We even have a fairly good idea of what Gudea looked like, since he placed in temples throughout his city numerous statues or idols depicting himself with lifelike realism.

At the time of Gudea, the capital of Lagash was actually in Ngirsumarker (Telloh). The kingdom covered an area of approximately 1,600 km². It contained 17 larger cities, eight district capitals, and numerous villages (about 40 known by name).

According to one estimate, Lagash was the largest city in the world from ca. 2075 to 2030 BC.[22234]

Soon after after the time of Gudea, Lagash was absorbed into the Ur III state as one of its prime provinces. There is some information about the area during the Old Babylonian period. After that it seems to have lost its importance; at least we know nothing more about it until the construction of the Seleucid fortress mentioned, when it seems to have become part of the Greek kingdom of Characene.

Dynasties of Lagash

These dynasties are not found on the Sumerian king list, although one extremely fragmentary supplement has been found in Sumerian, known as the The rulers of Lagash ( English translation). It recounts how after the flood mankind was having difficulty growing food for itself, being dependent solely on rainwater; it further relates that techniques of irrigation and cultivation of barley were then imparted by the gods. At the end of the list is the statement "Written in the school", suggesting this was a school exercise. A few of the names from the Lagash rulers listed below may be made out, including Ur-Nanshe, "Ane-tum", En-entar-zid, Ur-Ningirsu, Ur-Bau, and Gudea.

First Dynasty of Lagash

Second Dynasty of Lagash (short chronology)


Al-Hiba is one of the largest archaeological mounds in the region, measuring roughly two miles long and one mile wide. Estimates of its area range from 400 to 600 hectares. The site, as is often the case in Mesopotamia, is divided by the bed of a canal/river, which runs diagonally through the mound.

The site was first excavated, for six weeks, by Robert Koldewey in 1887. It was inspected during a survey of the area by Thorkild Jacobsen and Fuad Safar in 1953, finding the first evidence of its identification as Lagash. Tell Al-Hiba was again explored in five seasons of excavation between 1968 and 1976 by a team from the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker and the Institute of Fine Arts of New York Universitymarker. The team was led by Vaughn E. Crawford, and included Donald P. Hansen and Robert D. Biggs. The primary focus was theexcavation of the temple Ibgal of Inanna and the temple Bagara of Ningirsu, as well as an associated administrative area.

The team returned 12 years later in 1990 for a final season of excavation ledby D. P. Hansen. The work primarily involved areas adjacent to an as yetunexcavated temple. The results of this season have apparently not yet beenpublished.

See also



  • Robert D. Biggs, Inscriptions from al-Hiba-Lagash : the first and second seasons, Bibliotheca Mesopotamica. 3, Undena Publications, 1976, ISBN 0890030189
  • E. Carter, A surface survey of Lagash, al-Hiba, 1984, Sumer, vol. 46/1-2, , pp. 60-63, 1990
  • Donald P. Hansen, Royal building activity at Sumerian Lagash in the Early Dynastic Period, Biblical Archaeologist, vol. 55 , pp. 206-11, 1992
  • Vaughn E. Crawford, Lagash, Iraq, vol. 36, no. 1/2, pp.29-35, 1974

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