Elam. Isin-Larsa

The Babylonian Collections of the University Museum

By: Leon Legrain

Originally Published in 1944

View PDF

Elam, across the Persian Gulf on the borderland of Persia, has always been in close relation with the Sumerian south. From Elam the first Sumerian invaders may have come across the sea to the land of Shinear. Elam was often under Sumerian rule, and marriages between royal houses were frequent. But the Elamites belong to a different race, with a language-the Anzanite- and a writing of their own. Their fine painted pottery, of the First Susa style, probably antedates the al-‘Ubaid wares. The cemetery in which they were discovered by the French expedition under Jacques de Morgan (1897), at the foot of the citadel, lies directly over virgin soil.

But from being allies, the Elamites often turned into enemies and plunderers of Mesopotamia, out of which they brought spoils of war, such as the famous stela of Naram-Sin, and the Code of Hammurabi, recovered at Susa. An Elamite invasion ruined Ur at the time of Ibi-Sin (2015 B.C.), the last king of the third dynasty. The great stela of Ur-Nammu, a memorial of the building of the Ziggurat at Ur, was then broken to pieces, and the fragments scattered over the ground. It is now restored and forms one of the most impressive monuments of the Babylonian Section of the University Museum. In the same campaign, Elam was the ally of Mari, notably of Ishbi-irra, who established himself as king of Isin (near Shuruppak). Other Sumerian cities, Uruk, Larsa and Ur, alter centuries of independence under local rulers, were finally united under kings Arad-Sin and Rim-Sin, two brothers, sons of Kudur-Mabug of Elam. Isin was conquered by Rim-Sin, who in turn succumbed to the growing power of Babylon. The political independence of the Sumerians had come to an end. There is in the Babylonian Section a curious monument of that time. It is a small alabaster stela of Rim-Sin describing his refounding and endowing the temple of the moon god at Ur. The inscription is in the old Sumerian language (Ur Excavations, Vol. I, Royal inscriptions from Ur, no. 137). The stone was broken by the soldiers of Hammurabi. After his victory, the king left in the temple of Ur, as a memorial, a black diorite stela (fragments in the British Museum). This time the inscription was both in the Semitic and the Sumerian languages.

Cite This Article

Legrain, Leon. "Elam. Isin-Larsa." Museum Bulletin X, no. 3-4 (June, 1944): 49-50. Accessed February 28, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/2633/


This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.