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Work The Statuette of Iddi-Ilum

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Statue of Iddin-El, Shakkanakku (ruler) of Mari

© 1999 RMN / Galland

Near Eastern Antiquities

Iselin Claire

Between the end of the third millennium and the very early part of the second millennium BC, Mari was ruled by a dynasty of princes who bore the title of "shakkanakku." Initially military governors in the service of the Akkadian kings, they gradually became independent. This elegant statuette, found broken in one of the rooms of the palace at Mari, bears an inscription enabling us to identify it as one of them: Iddi-Ilum - or Iddin-El - the "shakkanakku" of Mari.

An elegant statuette

The prince, whose head is unfortunately missing, is depicted standing, his hands joined in what appears to correspond to the conventional Mesopotamian pose of prayer. He wears a long flowing robe, apparently consisting of a single piece of fine cloth, wound tightly around his hips and flared towards the bottom. This luxurious robe, with its tasseled border, is wound around his body and covers both his shoulders, contrary to Mesopotamian tradition. The fringed garment is held in place at the waist by a belt, an accessory that was not used in Mesopotamia. The beard, consisting of eight intertwined strands ending in waves, is trimmed to a point. The statuette bears an inscription in Akkadian: "Iddi-Ilum, shakkanakku of Mari, has dedicated his statue to Inanna. Whosoever erases this inscription will have his line wiped out by Inanna." Connections can be made between this statuette and the statue of Puzur-Ishtar, also "shakkanakku" of Mari, by virtue of the trimmed beard and the richness of the garments. These features are also found on the fragment of an important figure at Mari, although one who did not possess a royal title: Lasgan.

The dynasty of the "shakkanakkus" of Mari

This sculpture, discovered in two pieces in courtyard 148 of the palace of Mari, has been identified as the statue of Iddi-Ilum, "shakkanakku" of Mari, thanks to its inscription. The title of "shakkanakku" (military governor) was borne by all of the princes of a dynasty who reigned at Mari in the late third millennium and early second millennium BC, circa 1920 BC. These kings were the descendants of the military governors appointed by the kings of Akkad. As time went by, they became gradually independent, but the title of "shakkanakku" continued to be used for almost three and a half centuries. We know of the existence of three of these kings - Ishtup-Ilum, Iddi-Ilum, and Puzur-Ishtar - through inscribed statues. The construction of the massive royal palace, later known as the "Palace of Zimri-Lim," dates from this period.

A dynastic religion?

These statues of "shakkanakkus" may have been venerated as part of a dynastic religion during the era of Zimri-Lim (1782-1759 BC) and before his reign. Indeed, the statue of Puzur-Ishtar is horned, a sign of his status as a god. This dynastic religion, known as "kispum," made it possible to perpetuate the memory of dead kings. The statues of kings were probably displayed in front of the throne of the sovereign on a dais, which would explain why the statue of Puzur-Ishtar was found in the throne room at Mari, at the foot of the steps leading to the dais.


Parrot A., Les fouilles de Mari, quatrième campagne (hiver 1936-1937), Extr. de : Syria, XIX, Paris : Geuthner, 1938, p. 17-18, pl. VII, 1
Orthmann W., Der alte Orient, Berlin : Propyläen, 1975 (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, 14), p. 179, pl. 67 a et b
Expositions des quatre grandes civilisations mondiales : La Mésopotamie entre le Tigre et l'Euphrate (exposition itinérante, Japon, 2000), catalogue d'exposition, Tokyo : NHK, 2000, p. 222, pl. 136

Technical description

  • Statue of Iddin-El, Shakkanakku (ruler) of Mari

    Shakkanakku period, c. 2090 BC

    Palace of King Zimri-Lim, Mari

  • Soapstone

    H. 41.5 cm

  • A. Parrot excavations, 1933-37

    AO 19486

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia, 2nd and 1st millennia BC
    Room 227

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Additional information about the work

Iddi-Ilum, prince-governor of Mari, dedicated this statue to the goddess Ishtar