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I Placed My Name There

The Great Inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta I, King of Assyria (Special Exhibit)

    June 7 2015
  • Curator: Laura A. Peri
  • Neighboring Cultures Hall, Bronfman Archaeology Wing

This is the only complete version of the earliest and longest inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta I (ca. 1241 – 1206 BCE), a fascinating Assyrian monarch whose figure and name, “my trust is in (the god) Ninurta”, may have been the inspiration for the biblical Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12). The stele was probably placed in a wall of the building the construction of which it commemorates: the new palace that the king built in Assur, Assyria’s capital.

Despite its primary purpose as a foundation record, much of the inscription narrates the king’s first military successes. The text concludes with blessings on the future king expected to maintain the building and the inscription itself, followed by curses upon any ruler who might eradicate the building and its builder’s name.

The ancient custom of immortalizing the king’s name and deeds in writing gave birth to the first historical records. The idiom “to place one’s name” – to establish dominion or ownership by means of an inscription – is common in Mesopotamian royal texts. It is perpetuated in the Bible, for example, in Deuteronomy 12:11, with reference to the place chosen by God to (as traditionally translated) “make his name dwell there".

The Great Inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta I, King of Assyria
Inscribed in Akkadian in cuneiform script
Assur (Qal'at Sherqat), Middle Assyrian Period, probably 1239
Alabaster, Extended loan from the Collection of David and Cindy Sofer, London