A statue of the ruler Gudea, made of black diorite first published in 1923 by M. Thureau-Dangin, a leading sumerologist of his day. The Sumerian cuneiform text is almost unique, with a parallel only in Gudea Statue P, and displays several grammatical and orthographic peculiarities which lead to an early suggestion that it was a forgery, now discounted. The text is divided into 5 columns, 3 on the front of his clothing, the last 2 on the back. I will try to follow my translation with a brief commentary, leaving out most of the philological arguments. It reads, in full:
I. On the day that Ningirsu, the mighty warrior of Enlil, instituted for Ningishzida, the son of Ninazu, a dwelling-place in the city, II. instituted irrigated land in the fields for his use, Gudea, the Ensi of Lagash, righteous man, whose god loves him, built for Ningirsu, his king, the House of Fifty, "The White Thunderbird", The É.PA, the House of Seven Corners, and built for Nanshe, the powerful lady, his lady, III. the Sirara-Temple, "The mountain rising over the waters", he built for all the great gods their temples, built for Ningishzida his temple of Girsu. And so any man whom Ningirsu or his god calls IV. amidst the crowd, just as my god called me, let him not desecrate the temple of my personal god, let him invoke its name, and let him be my ally. V. Gudea made this statue - "(Ningishzida) gave life to Gudea, the man who built the temple" - he gave it this name, and brought it into the temple.
Most importantly, the text describes the introduction of Ningishzida, Gudea's personal patron, into the pantheon of Lagash. Administratively, land is consecrated for the god's cult within the city, for a temple complex, and in the surrounding fields, for its maintenance and revenue. The text suggests a definite religious hierarchy: Ningirsu, the patron of the city, approves the introduction of the cult and the dedication of the land. Gudea fulfills his obligations in a tricolon decrescens, building the temple first for Ningirsu, then for Nanshe, next for all of the great gods, before he can fulfill the mention of Ningishzida's temple. The text at the end of the 4th column is unclear, but suggests that Ningirsu's legitimating function as the patron of the city is required for rulership beyond the patronage of a personal or individual god; each king must have both, and appealing to the necessary patron of rule ensures the protection of the statue and the temple in which it is placed.
It is worth noting that Gudea's personal god, Ningishzida, roughly translatable as "Lord of the Righteous Wood", is a chthonic deity foreign to Lagash, whose power is properly limited to healing. He is the son of an underworld deity, Ninazu. Few of the Gudea texts give us any clue to Gudea's actual origins; one of the most important figures in Sumerian history, and we still know relatively little about him. It has been suggested that the phrase "from amidst the crowd" suggests that he was indeed a commoner, though there is little else in favour of the theory.
There are four separate building epithets mentioned specifically in the text: É.NINNU dANZU.BAR6.BAR6 (or "House of Fifty"), the É.PA (usually left untranslated), the É.LIMMU.IMIN (or "House of Seven Corners"), and the É.Sirara6 (simply, the Sirara-House). The first three most likely are epithets of the same temple, the É.NINNU; it is the house/temple of Enlil, the great god of the Sumerian pantheon, which Gudea had rebuilt in the early part of his reign. His early support for this temple was crucial in helping him maintain power. The exact reference of "fifty" is uncertain; it may simply be the number of Enlil according to Sumerian numerology, or may refer to fifty rooms within the complex. The "Seven Corners" are most likely seven corners of the inner sanctum, while the other two references are still unsatisfactorily explainable. The final temple, the É.Sirara, is usually the temple of the goddess Nanshe in the city of Nina.
As with all Sumerian statues, this one is named: "Ningishzida gave life to Gudea". The formula is certainly not unusual, and similar inscriptions are found on rings and other jewelry given as dedicatory offerings to temples.
The text is an invaluable addition to our knowledge of Gudea's reign and the dynamics of cult and political aspects of religion before the Ur III period.