Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum

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Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum
Archeological excavations at the palace grounds
Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum is located in Iraq
Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum
Location within Iraq
EstablishedCirca 530 BCE
Dissolved5th century-BCE
LocationAncient Ur
Coordinates30°57′42″N 46°06′19″E / 30.961667°N 46.105278°E / 30.961667; 46.105278
TypeMesopotamian artifacts
CuratorPrincess Ennigaldi
A clay cylinder inscribed with a description in three languages, as used in Ennigaldi's museum to accompany an ancient artifact; these are the earliest known "museum labels".

Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum is thought by some historians to be the first museum, although this is speculative. It dates to circa 530 BCE.[1][2][3][4] The curator was Princess Ennigaldi, the daughter of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[5] It was located in the state of Ur, located in the modern-day Dhi Qar Governorate of Iraq, roughly 150 metres (490 ft) southeast of the famous Ziggurat of Ur.[6]


When archaeologists excavated certain parts of the palace and temple complex at Ur they determined that the dozens of artifacts, neatly arranged side by side, whose ages varied by centuries, were actually museum pieces - since they came with what was finally determined to be "museum labels". These consisted of clay cylinder drums with labels in three different languages.[4] Ennigalbi's father Nabonidus, an antiquarian and antique restorer, taught her to appreciate ancient artifacts.[3] Her father is known as the first serious archeologist and influenced Ennigaldi to create her educational antiquity museum.[1]

The palace grounds that included the museum were at the ancient building referred to as E-Gig-Par, which also had her living quarters.[7] The palace grounds also included the palace subsidiary buildings.[4][8][9]


When archaeologist Leonard Woolley excavated the ruins of the museum, its contents were discovered to be labeled, using tablets and clay drums.[10] Many of the artifacts had been originally excavated by Nabonidus, Ennigald's father, and were from the 20th century BCE. Some artifacts had been collected previously by Nebuchadnezzar.[9] Some are thought to have been excavated by Ennigald herself. The items were many centuries old already in Ennigald's time and came from the southern regions of Mesopotamia.[3]

Ennigald stored the artifacts in a temple next to the palace where she lived.[3] She used the museum pieces to explain the history of the area and to interpret material aspects of her dynasty's heritage.[10]

The "museum labels" (the oldest such known to historians) for the items found in the museum were clay cylinders with descriptive text in three different languages[which?].[6][11]
Some of these artifacts were:

  • A kudurru, Kassite boundary marker (carved with a snake and emblems of various gods).
  • Part of a statue of King Shulgi
  • A clay cone that had been part of a building at Larsa.[2]


  1. ^ a b Anzovin, item # 1824, p. 69 The first museum known to historians (circa 530 BCE) was that of Ennigaldi-Nanna, the daughter of Nabu-na'id (Nabonidus), the last king to Babylonia.
  2. ^ a b Casey, p. "Public Museum" Around 530 B.C.E. in Ur, an educational museum containing a collection of labeled antiquities was founded by Ennigaldi-Nanna the, daughter of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylonia.
  3. ^ a b c d Harvey, p. 20 Princess Ennigaldi-Nanna, collected antiques from the southern regions of Mesopotamia, which she stored in a temple at Ur – the first known museum in the world.
  4. ^ a b c Leon, pp. 36–37 ...the first known museum...
  5. ^ McIntosch, p. 4
  6. ^ a b Woolley, Ur of the Chaldees pp. 252–259
  7. ^ Woolley, Excavations at Ur..., p. 235
  8. ^ HarperCollins, p. 23
  9. ^ a b Nash, p. 12
  10. ^ a b Britannica, Volume 2 p. 481


  • Anzovin, Steven, Famous First Facts 2000, ISBN 0-8242-0958-3
  • Britannica Encyclopaedia, The new encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 2, Edition 15, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1997, ISBN 0-85229-633-9
  • Casey, Wilson, Firsts: Origins of Everyday Things That Changed the World, Penguin, 2009, ISBN 1-59257-924-8
  • HarperCollins, HarperCollins atlas of archaeology, Borders Press in association with HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997, ISBN 0-7230-1005-6
  • Harvey, Edmund H., Reader's Digest book of facts, Reader's Digest Association, 1987, ISBN 0-89577-256-6
  • León, Vicki, Uppity women of ancient times, Conari Press, 1995, ISBN 1-57324-010-9
  • McIntosh, Jane, The Practical Ararchaeologist: How We Know What We Know About the Past, Turtleback Books, 2001, ISBN 0-613-29324-X
  • Nash, Stephen Edward (editor), Field Museum of Natural History (author), Curators, collections, and contexts: anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002, Field Museum of Natural History, 2003, Issue 36 of Fieldiana: Anthropology, Volume 1525 of Publication (Field Museum of Natural History)
  • Woolley, Leonard, Ur "of the Chaldees": the final account, Excavations at Ur, Herbert Press, 1982, ISBN 0-906969-21-2
  • Woolley, Leonard, Excavations at Ur – A Record of Twelve Years Work by Sir Leonard Woolley, Ernest Benn Limited, 1955, printed in Great Britain

Coordinates: 30°57′42″N 46°6′19″E / 30.96167°N 46.10528°E / 30.96167; 46.10528