Old Babylonian Terracotta Plaque of a Seated God


A finely modelled Old Babylonian terracotta plaque, depicting a seated god or king in front profile. The male figure is portrayed wearing a headdress, a flounced layered robe and a tunic draped over his left shoulders. Both arms are bent at the elbows and the right hand seems to be gesturing forward in a gifting pose. The back of the plaque is undecorated.

Date: Circa 1894–1595 BC
Provenance: Ex. London collection circa 1990's
Condition: Fine condition, cracks along the edge of the plaque, sign of ageing and slight earthy encrustation remain visible to the surface.


Following the collapse of the Ur III states, the Isin and Babylonian kings took control of the southern Mesopotamia successively. Most famous of the Babylonian kings was Hammurabi who transformed the city of Babylon into the capital of Mesopotamia from humble beginnings. Hammurabi is also attributed with the creation of one of the first law codes to emphasise penalties for crimes and the presumption of innocence. This legal text is still preserved in the Louvre museum in a monumental black basalt stele – the so-called Hammurabi code. On the top register of the Hammurabi code is the image of Hammurabi standing before a seated Shamash, sun god and god of justice, in an act of receiving the laws and the lower segments were engraved with hundreds of legal decisions. Hence serving both as a declaration of Hammurabi’s laws and his divinely sanctioned juridical power. There a similar attributes with this piece and the plaque presented, where the god Shamash is depicted in a similar dress and pose.

Terracotta plaques of this sort were mass-produced from moulds and represent a form of “mass” art available to ordinary Babylonians. They have been found in temples as well as household shrines in private homes. The subject matter was heavily influenced by the iconographies of Mesopotamian cylinder seals and varies widely from religious images, mythological and erotic scenes, and representations of rulers and gods.

Weight 52.8 g
Dimensions W 4 x H 7.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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