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Work Hammer decorated with heads of two birds and feathers

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Iran

Marteau orné de deux têtes et d'un plumage d'oiseau

© 2005 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities


This votive bronze weapon is characteristic of Iranian metalwork, of which many examples have been found at the Susa site. Decorated with birds' heads and feathers, this hammer carries an inscription in Sumerian referring to King Shulgi: "Powerful hero, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad."

A work inscribed with the name of a Mesopotamian king

Shulgi, second king of the 3rd Ur Dynasty, is one of the sovereigns who marked the Neo-Sumerian period, half of which was covered by his long forty-eight-year reign.
During this period, Susa and Elam were returned to Mesopotamia. Shulgi took control of Mesopotamia and conquered Susa, thus putting an end to the attempts of the Elamite sovereign Puzur-Inshushinak to achieve autonomy.
Epigraphic figurines and foundation tablets in the name of Shulgi (Louvre Museum, Sb 2879 and Sb 2880) record the king's building of the temples of Ninhursag and Inshushinak on the acropolis at Susa.
The inscription on this bronze hammer dedicated to him is in Sumerian, once more the official language in the Neo-Sumerian period, and uses the official title adopted by Shulgi's predecessor: "King of Sumer and Akkad."

A ceremonial weapon in the Iranian tradition

This ceremonial bronze hammer is decorated with the heads of two birds on either side of the hammer collar and curled plumage on the heel. This model has not been found in Mesopotamia, but is well documented in Luristan. A similar example (Louvre Museum, AO 24794) from this region dates from the early years of the 2nd millennium BC. Though animal motifs are a very ancient form of decoration in Iran, it was in the late 3rd and the 2nd millenniums BC that Iranian metalworkers excelled in this type of weapon, often decorated with animals.
These bronze hammers and axes featuring animal motifs were often ceremonial weapons presented by Elamite sovereigns to their dignitaries. An illustration of this custom can be seen on the seal of Kuk-Simut, an official under Idadu II, an Elamite prince in the early years of the 2nd millennium BC (Louvre Museum, Sb 2294). This votive weapon was thus preserved for eternity in its owner's grave.


Amiet Pierre, Élam, Auvers-sur-Oise, Archée, 1966, p. 243, n 176.
La Cité royale de Suse, Exposition, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17 novembre 1992-7 mars 1993, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1994, p. 92, n 56.

Technical description

  • Marteau orné de deux têtes et d'un plumage d'oiseau

  • Bronze

    H. 12. 3 cm; L. 11 cm

  • Fouilles R. de Mecquenem, tell de l'Acropole

    Inscription du roi Shulgi "héros puissant, roi d'Ur, roi de Sumer et d'Akkad"

    Sb 5634

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Iran and Bactria
    Room 305
    Vitrine 4 : Suse V : époque néo-sumérienne, dynastie de Shimashki et des Sukkalmah

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Additional information about the work

Photo RMN 97 CE 16698