Friday, April 5, 2013

Louvre--Mesopotamian Menagerie

The Louvre includes many antiquities, the most striking to me being the artifacts from Mesopotamia. These massive winged bulls with human heads were part of the entrance to Sargon II's palace. They represent genies called shedu or lamassu and were meant to protect from enemies. They date from the 8th century B. C. and were found in Khorsabad, Assyria.

Welcoming entrance

Profile of the winged bull human headed sculpture

This statue of the lion dates back to the second millenium before Christ. The exact purpose is unclear but he does seem like a playful lion. He was found in a temple dedicated to the "king of the land" in the excavations of Mari, Syria. It reminds me a little bit of those mystical dogs at the end of Ghostbusters.

At first I thought it was maybe a frog--whoops!

The star attraction is the Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, made from basalt around 1792-1750 B. C. It is culturally significant as the first written set of laws, predating even the Bible. Nobody, including the king, could say, "Hey, the law really says this!" since it was written down. Even the back was used for writing down the laws (and you know how I love backsides!). I should note that it is not a code of law as we think of it today, but a set of legal precedents that should guide the ruler to make wise and just decisions.  As they explain on the Louvre's web site:
The legal part of the text uses everyday language and is here simplified, for the king wanted it to be understood by all. However, the legal decisions are all constructed in the same manner: a phrase in the conditional sets out a problem of law or social order; it is followed by a response in the future tense, in the form of the sanction for the guilty party or the settlement of a situation: "Should an individual do such and such a thing, such and such a thing will happen to him or her."
Code of Hammurabi (front)

Code of Hammurabi (backside)

The text also includes a bit of the history of Hammurabi and a list of all the towns and territories under his jurisdiction.

Next up on our tour is the art and artifacts that don't fall into a neat category, so they will be the last bits of the museum.

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