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From 1963 excavations undertaken by archaeologists from New York University.
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From 1963 excavations undertaken by archaeologists from New York University.

King Gudea of Lagash

Statue of Gudea, the famous 22nd century BCE ruler of Lagash. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

Statue of woman

Statue of woman, ca. 2500 BCE. British Museum, London, UK.

Ancient city in Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, in what today is southeastern Iraq. Its location corresponds to modern Tell al-Hiba, close to the Tigris river, 60 km northwest of Basra.
At its strongest, Lagash formed its own kingdom covering about 1,500 km², including several cities. The city of Lagash had its functions divided between two centres 25 km apart. The one at Tell al-Hiba was the regular city, the other at Telloh was the religious centre. Still, under King Gudea, in the 22nd century BCE, the royal court was located to Telloh.
Largely, Lagash corresponds with ancient Girsu, the two places are either confused with each other, or merged as cities grew.
The main enemy of Lagash was Elam in the east.
From Lagash, one of the richest bodies of information about 3rd millennium BCE Sumer is found, and that from the period of King Gudea's rule cast light upon how extensive trade was developed in ancient Mesopotamia. Cedars were imported from the Amanus and Lebanon Mountains, diorite from eastern Arabia, copper and gold from central and southern Arabia. The era of King Gudea was one of artistic development, statues of him have survived in abundance. The statues show a realistic image of the king, in stead of a cultic or idealistic image which dominate ancient arts.
According to the legends, King Gudea received in a dream the assignment by the god Ningirsu to erect a ziggurat, as well as instructions to what it should look like. Such a story indicates that Lagash was the home of the first ziggurat. Largely, Lagash emerges as a very important religious centre with many temples, including the Eninnu, "House of the Fifty", the seat of the high god Enlil.
Near the Eninnu temple, numerous status of King Gudea were found. Other prominent temples include the Ibgal temple dedicated to Inanna and the Bagara temple dedicated to Ningirsu.
The Stele of the Vultures, commemorating the victory of King Eannatum over the neighbouring state of Umma is among the most important Lagash items. Another is the engraved silver vase of King Entemena.
Excavations at Lagash has unearthed about 30,000 cuneiform clay tablets, bringing forth extensive information about the administration of Eninnu temple. The tablets give details about the temple property, methods of farming and herding livestock, as well as handicraft production.

Lagash may have been founded around 5000 BCE.
Middle 24th century: Lagash emerges as a wealthy city ruled by kings.
2330: Lagash, and all other Sumerian cities, are conquered by Akkadian king, Sargon 1.
2279: Sargon dies, his state loses control, and Lagash regains its independence.
22nd century: Era of Gudea.
Around 2100: Lagash develops into what may have been the largest city of its time.
18th century: Becomes part of Babylonia.
Around 600: Lagash appears still to be a city of size, but without any unique importance in the country.

Modern times
1877 CE: Excavations begin at Lagash. Over more than 50 years, more than 50,000 cuneiform texts are found.

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By Tore Kjeilen