Saturday, July 08, 2006

Barakat Brick

I saw this 14.5" x 14.5" inscription in person in Beverly Hills a couple of years ago, & noticed that it's still available for sale on the Barakat Gallery website:

My picture is just a negative grayscale version of the color photo on their website so that it can still be available here for viewing in case they sell it & remove it from their website.

At first I doubted whether the gigantic cuneiform letters actually say what the dealer says it does:

"Shalmanessar, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, son of Assurnasirpal, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, descendant of Tukulti-Ninurta, king of the world, king of Assyria, [brick for] the erection of the ziggurat of the city of Kalhu."

This is attributed to Shalmaneser #3, the one to whom the Israelite king, Jehu, bowed on the famous Black Obelisk found at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) in northern Iraq, now at the British Museum; it's not the same guy (Shalmaneser #5) usually associated with 2Kings 17:3.

The "brick" looks & sounds more like a stela fragment; it's made of stone. Also, this doesn't resemble bricks from the later Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar I've seen, which are much smaller, & actually made of clay rather than stone. Here are some samples of excellent specimens that sold on eBay over the past few years:

"Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, provisioner of Esagil & Esida/Ezida, prime son of Nabopolassar. King of Babylon I am. Ebabbara, the temple of Shamash in Larsa, I restored as it was before for Shamash, my lord."

Makes me wonder if inscriptions like this were the inspiration for Dr. Seuss' Sam-I-Am. Anyway, as strange as Barakat's brick first seemed to me when I walked into their gallery, I found a reference to other specimens of it at the British Museum &, oddly enough, the Library of Congress! A comparison of the photos indeed shows the same letters!

Song of the week: "Lost Temple" by David Arkenstone (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 28-second sample; 347kb).
G.M. Grena

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