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Statue de la déesse Narundi

© 1988 RMN / Pierre et Maurice Chuzeville

Near Eastern Antiquities
Iran

Author(s):
Herbin Nancie, after Caubet Annie

This is one of the few surviving examples of cult statues of deities. It shows the extent of Mesopotamian influence in Iran, and more specifically in the metropolis of Susa, an influence still felt even during its periods of independence. This statue of the goddess Narundi displays numerous iconographic and stylistic features that recall the Mesopotamian world.

A rare cult statue

The head of this statue was found on the acropolis at Susa by Jacques de Morgan in 1904, and the body in 1907. It would have belonged to a sanctuary, part of which survives in a pedestal or podium of several stone steps, on which the stone lions flanking the statue would have served as bases to support poles. The goddess's attitude and dress and the decoration are all Mesopotamian, as is the use of materials of different colors to create a more life-like appearance. The inlays of the ears and eyes, most probably of precious stones and metals, have been removed.
The headdress with three pairs of horns worn by the statue was an attribute of Sumerian gods of high rank, and her garment, the kaunakes, is also of Sumerian origin. Depicted at a ceremonial banquet, the goddess holds a palm frond and a goblet. She is seated on a low throne with armrests which is decorated with snarling lions, two of them bearing spears or poles. Beneath her feet lie two lions. In Mesopotamia, the lion was the attribute of the goddess Inanna or Ishtar, goddess of war, fertility and sexuality. On the throne are two inscriptions, one in Akkadian giving the name of the donor, "Puzur-Inshushinak, prince of Awan," the other in Elamite, the local language, giving the name of the goddess, Narundi.

A distinctive culture with strong Mesopotamian influence

During the third millennium the city of Susa developed a new and distinctive culture marked by elements borrowed from Mesopotamia and traditions from the high plateaux of Iran. From the Sumerian world the Susans took the principle of a pantheon reflecting a cosmic order governed by divinities connected by family ties, and also the practice of making offerings of sculptures at shrines: statues of gods or worshippers and reliefs commemorating ceremonies. After the conquest of Susa by the Akkadian Empire, the Susans adopted the Akkadians' script and administrative system, and the city became an important crossroads on the network of trade routes between the Indus and the Near East.

A dual monarchy

With the decline of the Akkadian Empire, local dynasties reasserted their independence. Around 2100, Susa was captured from the rulers of Akkad by Puzur-Inshushinak, who was to leave several monuments on the Susan acropolis. It was probably on his initiative that the Elamite script was developed. His achievements would later succumb to the Third Dynasty of Ur, but he must have been the ruler of Susa who around 2000 or 1900 BC instituted the system of dual monarchy, based both at Susa and in the future kingdom of Anshan in the mountains of Fars. This system operated under the "kings of Shimashki," around 2000, the Sukkalmah Dynasty around 1900-1600, and then under the Medeo-Elamite dynasties until the end of the second millennium. Darius I, founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, would revive the tradition by having two capitals, at Persepolis and Susa.

Technical description

  • Statue de la déesse Narundi

    Règne de Puzur-InshushinakVers 2100 avant J.-C.

  • Calcaire

  • Fouilles J. de Morgan, 1907, tell de l'Acropole

    Inscription en élamite linéaire et en akkadien

    Sb 54, Sb 6617

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Iran and Susa during the 3rd millennium BC
    Room 8

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