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Babylonia at the time of Hammurabi, ca. 1792-1750 BC

Coordinates: 33°29′3″N 44°43′42″E / 33.48417°N 44.72833°E / 33.48417; 44.72833 Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar in Diyala Province, Iraq) was an ancient Sumerian (and later Akkadian) city and city-state in central Mesopotamia. Although situated in the Diyala Valley north-east of Sumer proper, the city nonetheless belonged securely within the Sumerian cultural milieu.

The tutelary deity of the city was Tishpak (Tišpak).


Sumerian male worshiper, Alabaster with shell eyes. One of the twelve statues in the Tell Asmar Hoard.

Occupied from the Jemdet Nasr period, about 3000 BC, Eshnunna was a major city during the Early Dynastic period. Beginning with the rise of the Akkadian Empire, Eshnunna oscillated between periods of independence and domination by empires such as the Third Dynasty of Ur and Isin. Because of its promise of control over lucrative trade routes, Eshnunna could function somewhat as a gateway between Mesopotamian and Elamite culture. The trade routes gave it access to many exotic, sought-after goods such as horses from the north, copper, tin, and other metals and precious stones. In a grave in Eshnunna, a pendant made of copal from Zanzibar was found.[1]

After rising to prominence as an independent state in the early second millennium, during the time of Shamshi-Adad, Eshnunna was then occupied by Elam, after which it was conquered by Hammurabi of Babylon in the 38th year of his reign, and thus absorbed within the Old Babylonian Empire (sometimes called the First Babylonian Dynasty). Thereafter, the city appears but rarely in cuneiform textual sources, reflecting its probable decline and eventual disappearance.


The remains of the ancient city are now preserved in the mound of Tell Asmar, some 38 km in a straight line northeast of Baghdad and 30 km in a straight line southeast of Baqubah, excavated in six seasons between 1930 and 1936 by an Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago team led by Henri Frankfort with Thorkild Jacobsen and Seton Lloyd. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Despite the long passage of time since the excavations at Tell Asmar, the work of examining and publishing the remaining finds from that dig continues to this day. These finds include roughly 1500 cuneiform tablets.[8]

In the late 1990s, Iraqi archaeologists worked at Tell Asmar. The results from that excavation have not yet been published.[9]

Laws of Eshnunna[edit]

Main article: Laws of Eshnunna

The Laws of Eshnunna consist of two tablets, found at Shaduppum (Tell Harmal) and a fragment found at Tell Haddad, the ancient Mê-Turan.[10] They were written sometime around the reign of king Dadusha of Eshnunna and appear to not be official copies. When the actual laws were composed is unknown. They are similar to the Code of Hammurabi. [11]

Square Temple of Abu[edit]

During the Early Dynastic period, the Abu Temple at Tell Asmar (Eshnunna) went through a number of phases. This included the Early Dynastic Archaic Shrine, Square Temple, and Single-Shrine phases of construction. They, along with sculpture found there, helped form the basis for the three part archaeological separation of the Early Dynastic period into ED I, ED II, and ED III for the ancient Near East.[12] A cache of 12 gypsum temple sculptures, in a geometric style, were found in the Square Temple; there are known as the Tell Asmar Hoard. They are some of the best known examples of ancient Near East sculpture. The group, now split up, show gods, priests and donor worshippers at different sizes, but all in the same highly simplified style. All have greatly enlarged inlaid eyes, but the tallest figure, the main cult image depicting the local god, has enormous eyes that give it a "fierce power".[13]


Rulers of Eshnunna[edit]

Ruler Proposed reign Notes
Urguedinna ~2000 BC Governor under Shulgi of the Ur III
Kallamu Governor under Shulgi of the Ur III
Ituria Governor under Shu-Sin of the Ur III
Ilushuilia Governor under Ibbi-Sin of the Ur III
Nurakhum Governor under Ibbi-Sin of the Ur III, Contemporary of Ishbi-Erra of Isin
Bilalama Contemporary of Tan-Ruhuratir of Elam
Ipiq-Adad I Contemporary of Abdi-Erah of Khafajah and Sumu-abum of Babylon
Ibal-pi-El I
Ipiq-Adad II ~1700 BC Reigned at least 36 years
Naram-Sin Son of Ipiq-Adad II, Contemporary of Shamshi-Adad
Dannum-tahaz Approximate position
Dadusha Son of Ipiq-Adad II, Contemporary of Shamshi-Adad
Ibal-pi-El II Contemporary of Zimri-Lim of Mari, Killed by Siwe-palar-huppak of Elam who captured Eshnunna


  1. ^ Carol Meyer et al., From Zanzibar to Zagros: A Copal Pendant from Eshnunna, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 289-298, 1991
  2. ^ [1] Henri Frankfort, Thorkild Jacobsen, and Conrad Preusser, Tell Asmar and Khafaje: The First Season?s Work in Eshnunna 1930/31, Oriental Institute Publication 13, 1932
  3. ^ [2] Henri Frankfort, Tell Asmar, Khafaje and Khorsabad: Second Preliminary Report of the Iraq Expedition, Oriental Institute Publication 16, 1933
  4. ^ [3] Henri Frankfort, Iraq Excavations of the Oriental Institute 1932/33: Third Preliminary Report of the Iraq Expedition, Oriental Institute Publication 17, 1934
  5. ^ [4] Henri Frankfort with a chapter by Thorkild Jacobsen, Oriental Institute Discoveries in Iraq, 1933/34: Fourth Preliminary Report of the Iraq Expedition, Oriental Institute Publication 19, 1935
  6. ^ [5] Henri Frankfort, Progress of the Work of the Oriental Institute in Iraq, 1934/35: Fifth Preliminary Report of the Iraq Expedition, Oriental Institute Publication 20, 1936
  7. ^ [6] Henri Frankfort, Seton Lloyd, and Thorkild Jacobsen with a chapter by Günter Martiny, The Gimilsin Temple and the Palace of the Rulers at Tell Asmar, Oriental Institute Publication 43, 1940
  8. ^ [7] Clay Sealings And Tablets From Tell Asmar
  9. ^ [8] TAARII efforts to rescue Iraqi Archaeological publications
  10. ^ In Al-Rawi, Sumer 38 (1982, pp 117-20); the excavations are surveyed in Iraq 43 (1981:177ff; Na'il Hanoon, in Sumer 40 pp 70ffIraq 47 (1985)
  11. ^ The Laws of Eshnunna, Reuven Yaron, BRILL, 1988, ISBN 90-04-08534-3
  12. ^ "The Square Temple at Tell Asmar and the Construction of Early Dynastic Mesopotamia ca. 2900-2350 B.C.E,", Jean M Evans, American Journal of Archaeology, Boston, Oct 2007, Vol. 111, Iss. 4; pg. 599
  13. ^ Frankfort, Henri, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, Pelican History of Art, 4th ed 1970, pp. 46-49, Penguin (now Yale History of Art), ISBN 0140561072; the group are now devided between the Metropolitan Museum, New York, Oriental Institute, Chicago, and the National Museum of Iraq (with the god).
  14. ^ [9] Henri Frankfort, Sculpture of the Third Millennium B.C. from Tell Asmar and Khafajah, Oriental Institute Publication 44, 1939


  • City In the Sand (2nd Edition), Mary Chubb, Libri, 1999, ISBN 1-901965-02-3
  • [10] R. M. Whiting Jr., Old Babylonian Letters from Tell Asmar, Assyriological Studies 22, Oriental Institute, 1987
  • [11] I.J. Gelb, Sargonic Texts from the Diyala Region, Materials for the Assyrian Dictionary, vol. 1, Chicago, 1961
  • Maria deJong Ellis, Notes on the Chronology of the Later Eshnunna Dynasty, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 61–85, 1985
  • I. J. Gelb, A Tablet of Unusual Type from Tell Asmar, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 219-226, 1942

See also[edit]

External links[edit]