Notebook, 1993-

Manual of Oriental Antiquities - Babelon, Ernest. Librarian of the Department of Medals and Antiques in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Manual of Oriental Antiquities, including the Architecture, Sculpture, and Industrial Arts of Chaldæ, Assyria, Persia, Syria, Judæ, Phœnicia, and Carthage. London: H. Grevel and Co. 1906.

The Chaldæn -- Assyria -- Elamites (Archeological Discoveries at Souza) -- The Phœnicians & The Cypriots -- The Hittites

Archeological Discoveries
at Souza (cont.)

Stone Sculpture
The earliest example of the sculptor's art found by the de Morgan Mission up to the present time is a Chaldæn stela, transported from Babylonia to Susa as the result of some victory. It is an obelisk of black diroite, similar to the statues discovered by M. de Sarzec at Tello, of pyramidal from with a rectangular vase. It measures 4 ft. 3 in. in height. The four faces are covered with cuneiform inscriptions in a language which is a mixture of Sumerian and Semitic. The writing is very fine, inscribed with care and delicacy, and the text comprises not less than 7,600 signs. It refers to a king named Manishtu-Irba, as purchaser of lands in the neighbourhood of Kis, to the [p. 316] north of Bablyon. This monument is surely epigraphic, and bears no sculptures, at any rate in its present condition. [Memoires de la Mission, vol i., p l. ix.]

Another example dates back to the same period, and is also Chaldæn in origin. It is a fragment of sandstone pavement [37 x 17 1/2 inches] on which is sculptured in relief one of those fantastic genii peculiar to Chaldæn mythology. He has a human head, and is standing, holding with both hands the boughs of a sacred tree similar to that represented on the Chaldæn cylinders. The eye is enormous and disproportionate, the nose prominent and arched, the chin retreating: above the mouth there is a small dropping moustache, while the beard, formed at first of small regular curls, divides into a series of straight locks and falls square over the breast. A striped band, finished with an ornament shaped like the ear of an animal, forms the head-dress, and from it a heavy coil or twist of hair falls to the shoulder. There is a pair of immense horns on the top of the head. The body ends at the loins with animal's feet and a lion's tail. The style and type of this genius recalls in a striking manner the most archaic of the bas-reliefs of Tello. [Memoires de la Mission, vol, vii., p l. i., fig. A.]

On other stone reliefs are unfolded before our eyes a convoy of prisoners in chains, or again, the episodes of a siege, the immolation of prisoners, vultures devouring the corpses on a field of battle; on another there is a figure of a god with long twisted beard, and massive shoulders, placidly seated on his throne and receiving the homage of the prince who is under his [p. 317] protection. These scenes, at once expressive and severely simple, are excellent specimens of primitive Chaldæn art as revealed to us at Tello. Imported into Susa by conquest, there is nothing Susian about them.

The most interesting of these Chaldæn monuments discovered in the rubbish of the Elamite capital is undoubtedly the triumphal stela of the king Naram-Sin [fig. 246], which attracted much attention immediately after the notification of its discovery by M. de Morgan and Dr. Scheil in 1898. This stela is sculptured on a block of sandstone, covered with bas-reliefs and inscriptions. It is 6 ft. 4 in. high and 3 fit. 2 in. wide; the outline is irregular and the sculptor has utilized the [p. 319] whole for his composition, without attempting to get rid of the irregularities, as though the block itself possessed somewhat of a sacred character and was held inviolate, even before the addition of the sculptures with which it is decorated.

A primary inscription relates that Naram-Sin, king of Agade in lower Chaldæ, 4000 B.C. caused this stela to be erected, in order that there should be engraved on it the account of his warlike deeds against the people of Lulubi.

But the stela bears a second inscription, added long after the time of Naram-Sin. This new cuneiform text is not Chaldæn; it is in the Anzanite language and bears the name of Chutruk-Nakhunta, king of the Elamites.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty which still attends the interpretation of Anzanite texts, Dr. Scheil has been able to ascertain that in this inscription, Chutruk-Nakhunta boasts that he has carried off the stela of Narem-Sin from the town of Sippara in Chaldæ, after a victory, and has had it removed to Susa, and caused this inscription to be cut on it, mentioning his victory and the removal of the stela. Thus this monument, discovered by M. de Morgan, was originally a trophy of victory of the Chaldæn king, Naram-Sin, which later became a similar trophy of Chutruk-Nakhunta, when the Elamites took vengeance on the Chaldæns and succeeded in invading Chaldæ.

The curious bas-relief which decorated the greater part of the stela, dates back to primitive times, and represents, not the conquest of the Elamite kings, but those far earlier victories of the Chaldæn, Naram-Sin. [p. 319] M. de Morgan thus describes it: "The king, victorious over the Lulubis and their allies, is pursuing his enemies in the mountains. At the head of his army he c limbs the heights; corpses cover the ground and roll over the precipices; the vanquished, who have taken refuge in the forest, are imploring mercy from their conquerors, to escape falling under their weapons. The stars of heaven, favourable to the armies of Agade, are illuminating with their glow the glories of Naram-Sin. Such is the motif that guided the sculptor, and such no doubt was the leading idea given him by the king. As to the interpretation, the arrangement of the figures, and grouping of the whole scene, that is the work of the artist.

"The composition of the bas-relief of Susa is clever in its simplicity. Only eight armed men are figured, to represent the army of Agade, which is led by Naram-Sin in person. Two act as scouts in the forest, while six represent the body of the troops. Three men are falling dead and one wounded under the bows of the king, to express the carnage wrought on the foe by the conqueror, and four fugitives are holding up their hands to figure the submission of the conquered. Two trees remind us by their shape, of the sparsely wooded forests which cover the mountains of Kurdistan."

Such is the summary synthesis of the victories of Naram-Sin, the sight of which must have struck the imagination of the Chaldæns, reminding them of the mountainous and wooded country which had been the theatre of so terrible a slaughter.

The country which forms a setting for this scene is depicted with the same simplicity we find later in the [p. 321] Chaldæn and Ninevite sculptures, and may be compared more especially with the Chaldæn work on the Vulture Stela found by M. de Sarzec at Tello [see pp. 25, 26, figs. 11, 12, 13]. An enormous cone, with various undulations surrounding it, represents the mountainous country that is pervaded by the army of Naram-Sin. A few trees suggest the forest, superposed registers take the place of perspective. The figure of the king is colossal, to assert his superiority--a convention possessed by Chaldæn art, in common with the art of Egypt and Assyria. His calm attitude indicates that he has gained the victory without the slightest difficulty. On him, thus figured after the manner of a Greek hero as a demi-god, the artist has concentrated his principal efforts; it is he on whom attention must be centered. His body is well proportioned and well drawn, although stiffened into a conventional attitude, the eye is large, the nose short, the beard silky and flowing long over the breast, and the working of the muscles is powerful and remarkably realistic.

It may be objected that the figure is too narrow, and we should consider it altogether too slender, were it not that the same defect appears in the other figures.

"The only defensive armour worn by Naram-Sim," remarks M. de Morgan, is a casque. This is a pointed cap, ogive in form, which rests on a band surrounding the forehead. This band has two pointed pads reaching to the top of the cap--one in front, the other behind--and is adorned with two horns, whose curves harmonize with the outline of the head-dress. A metal screen falls over the nape of the neck, protecting the neck and [p. 21] shoulders. With his left arm the king is clasping to his breast his bow and battle-axe, in the right hand he holds an arrow, hesitating as the suppliants kneel before him, whether to deal one more blow with his weapons. . . .

"Naram-Sin fought half naked, wearing only one tight narrow garment, which affords full value to all the parts of his body.

"The tunic, crossed on the chest, is embroidered at the collar; it is drawn tightly round the body and knotted at the side. Two long folds fall below the knee; on the neck is an amulet; heavy bracelets are on the wrists, and a long girdle round the waist. The legs are bare, and on the feet are sandals with flat soles, similar to those worn at the present day by many Orientals, fixed on by straps passed between the toes, and fastened together above the ankle."

On close examination it will be seen that the two groups of warriors depicted, the victors and the vanquished, clearly indicate their distinguishing characteristics, from the ethnical and anthropological point of view. The first--the conquerors--have the Semitic profile, while the second--the conquered--have a profile approaching the Negritic type. Thus, in this carefully sculptured piece of so remote a date, we find realism, which is most minute in detail, associated with most fantastic conventions as regards the general arrangement of the composition--a double characteristic which, as we have repeatedly maintained, has always remained the original stamp of oriental art.

The ethnic peculiarities of the Negrito race are even more strikingly indicated on a fragment of bas-relief [p. 322] which represents the bust of some person, nude, bearded, with a small cord tied round the head [fig. 247] . What living realism there is in this lean body, bony and loose jointed! What close study of nature in the knitting of the muscles, the crisp thick beard, the enormous projecting lips, the nose with its distended cartilages, and the disproportionate eye presented full face! In all this is there not an amount of character which bespeaks a sincere art, observant of nature, and capable of rendering it with brutal frankness?

The celebrated code of laws of Hammurabi, the most important monument which up to the present time has been exhumed from the ruins of Susa, is, also, not of Susian origin [fig. 248]. Hammurabi was king of Babylon, and the stela on which his law is engraved was taken from Chaldæ. The text itself tells us its origin. It was originally at Sippara, in the Temple of the sun, the god who inspired the precepts engraved on the monument. Shutruk-Nakhunta caused it to be transported to Susa after his victorious campaign into Chaldæ. It is a block of diorite, with a circumference of about 6 feet at the base, and is 7 ft. 3 in. in height. It resembles an enormous ovoid pebble, carefully polished but not shaped, a characteristic which we have observed in the stela of Naram-Sin and a large number [p. 323] of Chaldæn monuments. The whole surface is covered with fine close writing, engraved with most careful precision. The space at the top of the stela is reserved for representations in high relief of the god Samas, holding out his hand to the king, who is standing before him, giving him the stylus, with which to write his laws. The costume both of god and King is purely Chaldæn.

Again Chaldæn in origin, although of far later date, is a small diorite fragment of bas-relief called the bas-relief of the Spinner. It represents a woman sitting on a stool, her legs crossed and feet behind in the tailor's attitude. She is holding her spindle with both hands; in front of her is a fish lying on a table, and behind her a slave is waving the fly-flap.

The round chubby faces of the figures recall the bas-reliefs of Khorsabad, which represent the eunuchs of the Ninevite palace.

Among other stone monuments with which the excavations at Susa have enriched the Louvre Museum, there is a considerable series of large ovoid diroite blocks, [p. 324] similar to the famous Cailou Michaux, which is figured earlier in the book [page 34, fig. 21]. The original name of these objects is Kudurru, which corresponds with the idea of "limit, boundary," These are titles of rural properties given to important personages, or to temples, by the kings of Babylon. In addition to the inscriptions, which fix our attention, these Kudurru are covered with bas-reliefs of monstrous figures of gods and demons, under whose supervision the contract is placed, or who would punish those who should dare to change the object and its inscriptions. Those bas-reliefs, where the Babylonian divinities are seen accompanied by their totems, are only of mediocre workmanship, but the figures carved on them are exceedingly interesting and curious. At the top of these objects there is generally the figure of the celestial serpent rolled up or outstretched. The kudurru found at Susa do not differ from those of Chaldæ, and are undoubtedly imported from that country.

One of the most remarkable is that of Melisihu, king of Babylon. Another, which deserves special notice, is that of "Nazi-maruttas, king of Kis, son of Kurig-alzu, descendant of Burna-buryas, king of Babylon." By way of a specimen we give here an illustration of one which offers a special peculiarity--it is unfinished [fig. 249]. It will be seen that the figures are winged. [p. 325] Huntsmen, gods, serpents, lions, and birds, the usual decorations of theh kudurru, are well engraved, but the cuneiform text is absent. The space reserved for it is framed by two columns, the body of a serpent and a crenellated frieze. It appears, therefore, that this object must have been seized in Chaldæa by the Susians, before it had been utilized and consecrated.

From this general sketch of the stone sculptures which so far have been recovered from the ruins of Susa, one essential fact stands out prominently; stone-carving was not practiced in Susa: all the monuments hitherto discovered were brought from Chaldæ. They are Chaldæn sculptures imported into Susa by the victorious Elamites. [p. 326]




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