WESTERN ASIATIC MESOPOTAMIAN PRIEST WITH TEMPLE OFFERING FIGURINE Late 3rd millennium BC
A carved limestone figure of a kilted priest or worshipper kneeling, hair drawn back from the brow and secured with a band, holding in both hands a rectangular block, with a possibly later inscription. 120 grams, 86mm (3 1/2").
Condition Fine condition.
Provenance Private collection, London, UK; formed 1970s-1980s.
Published Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.
Literature Cf. similar hairstyle on a Mesopotamian figure in Aruz, J. Art of the First Cities. The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, New York, 2003, item 28.
Footnotes In some of the earliest written documents of Mesopotamia are found lists of the titles of officials, including various classes of priests. Some of these are administrative functionaries of the temple bureaucracy and others are religious specialists dealing with particular areas of the cult. Later records describe a complex hierarchy of clergy attached to temples, from high priests and priestesses, down to courtyard sweepers. Priests and priestesses may have entered the clergy through dedication at a young age. They would have been distinguished by their priestly dress, or by being shaven-headed which symbolized ritual purity. The upward gaze of this figure suggests that it was placed in a sanctuary before the image of the deity so that the donor could look upon the god at all times, and presenting their prayers inscribed on the tablet.